The Appeal Court on Tuesday rejected a request for bail from Kem Sokha on health grounds after a closed-door session held in his absence. It lasted for about an hour.
Sokha’s legal team cited a pinched blood vessel in his back in his bail application, saying their client is not receiving treatment for the problem.
Touch Tharith, an Appeal Court spokesman, said the decision to deny bail followed the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal court.
“Because the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision is legally binding, the Appeal Court upholds the decision to detain Kem Sokha,” he said.
The former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president is currently in pre-trial detention at a Tbong Khmum province facility.
He was arrested at his home in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district on September 3 last year on treason charges. His previous bail requests have all been rejected.
According to Article 443 of the Criminal Code, Sokha faces 15 to 30 years in prison if found guilty.
Suos Sam Ath was the presiding judge, with Im Sophan serving as prosecutor.
Meng Sopheavy, Chan Chen, Phan Chansak and Pheng Heng represented Sokha.
Sopheavy said after the announcement that they will discuss with their client as to whether to take their appeal to the Supreme Court.
“We think the court’s decision not to release Kem Sokha on bail is unfair,” she said.
Sopheavy said Sokha’s application fulfilled all legal obligations, and they were at a loss as to what further could be done to gain his release after having met the criteria already in place by law.
She said that strict bail conditions can be put in place, including the seizure of Sokha’s passport to prevent him absconding, while authorities could even guard his home.
“If [the court] is afraid of him escaping abroad then seize his passport, but he has no intention of escaping. If he had, he wouldn’t have allowed himself to be arrested in the first place,” she said.
In March, a bail hearing on the same health grounds was also held in Sokha’s absence after he was denied permission to attend by the Appeal Court.
This was despite the 64-year-old making the trip to the capital for a previous court date in February.
Sopheavy said Sokha’s legal team had again argued for his release because of his back problems, but the court said the denial of bail was to avoid a repeat offence, maintain public order, prevent chaos, avoid collusion between the accused and witnesses, and keep the defendant available for court procedures.
She said her client had known in advance that he would at some point in his political career face a situation like the one he currently finds himself in, as the fate of an opposition lawmaker was to end up in prison one day.
The case rests largely on a 13-minute 2013 video in which Sokha tells supporters in Australia that he received foreign advice in planning his political career.
While no trial date has been set, the charges have been widely panned by the international community, as has the court-dissolution of Sokha’s CNRP over allegations it was fomenting a “revolution”.