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Kem Sokha’s lawyers seek to clarify bail restrictions

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People gather outside Kem Sokha’s home earlier this week after he was released on bail. Sreng Meng Srun

Kem Sokha’s lawyers seek to clarify bail restrictions

Lawyers for bailed opposition leader Kem Sokha said on Tuesday that they will seek clarification as to the conditions applied to his release – which they have compared to house arrest due to their perceived stringency – saying one, in particular, is worryingly “subject to interpretation”.

The court set four conditions to his release on bail on health grounds, with the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president to return to pre-trial detention on treason charges should he break them.

Chan Chen, one of Sokha’s lawyers, on Tuesday said points of the condition that state Sokha must not meet with certain individuals, such as “former leaders of the CNRP and individuals who are linked to the court case and foreigners, especially foreigners who are connected to the case” was not clear and the defence team would request clarification.

“This point is subject to interpretation. It is loose. I am not sure what it means when it refers to the leadership of the CNRP. I don’t know whether it is at the national or sub-national level.

“We are also unsure whether a phone call counts as a ‘meeting’ or if it is purely direct contact. We will submit a letter requesting clarification from the investigating judge as to which leaders he is banned from having contact with and what constitutes a ‘meeting’,” he said.

Speaking to more than 200 Cambodian students in Nanning city in China’s Guangxi province on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that Sokha’s bail was granted due to his health and that the founder of the now disbanded Human Rights Party requested security, both while in the detention centre and outside of it, Fresh News said on Tuesday.

According to Sokha’s letter, he requested protection from the National Police.

Chen said he considered the security outside Sokha’s house as “normal”.

“As for his security, we saw nothing strange which made us concerned. He is in his house as normal, like before he was arrested,” he said.

The deputy chief of Phnom Penh Municipal Police Song Ly said on Tuesday that security for Sokha was under the control of Tuol Kork district authorities.

“It is the responsibility of the local authority. Tuol Kork district was already prepared,” he said.

But Tuol Kork district chief Ek Khun Doeun said the police presence outside Sokha’s house was just there to help ease traffic. He said the security plans for Sokha could not be revealed.

“For security, the district force is cooperating with Phnom Penh Municipal Police to provide good security and keep order,” he said, referring further questions to Tuol Kork district police chief Sok Heng, who, however, could not be reached on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Sar Sorn, a land activist from Borei Keila was questioned for more than two hours by the investigating judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in relation to Sokha’s treason case.

She said on Tuesday that the court had questioned her about the “Black Monday” campaign she had joined, where activists donned black clothing and protested the release of detained civil society members.

“They asked me whether the CNRP initiated the idea of Black Monday. I told them that I did not take part in the Black Monday protest on a CNRP call. We took part under the initiative of my community. But they said they did not believe me,” she said.

Sorn said the court also questioned her about the sources of funding for the campaign.

“They said that the campaign was not initially started by me, but that I had been given the idea by the US and big NGOs. Why didn’t I do it on Tuesday or Wednesday, they asked. Why only on a Monday?” she said.

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