Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kem Sokha’s pre-trial detention extended by six months



Kem Sokha’s pre-trial detention extended by six months

Jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha appears at the Appeal Court last month for a bail hearing. Sokha's pre-trial detention on accusations of "treason" was extended today.
Jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha appears at the Appeal Court last month for a bail hearing. Sokha's pre-trial detention on accusations of "treason" was extended today. Fresh News

Kem Sokha’s pre-trial detention extended by six months

Jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha may not face trial until after the July elections, after a Phnom Penh Municipal Court decision on Monday to extend his pre-trial detention up to another six months.

Meng Sopheary, Sokha’s lawyer, confirmed that Investigating Judge Ky Rithy extended the former Cambodia National Rescue Party president’s detention, saying he needed more time to complete the investigation into Sokha’s alleged “treason” charges.

“The investigative judge decided to extend the detention for another six months,” Sopheary said. “The reason he gave was the investigation was not completed.”

She added that the defence continued unsuccessfully to seek his release on bail, citing Sokha’s health problems. In February, the defence team said Sokha had a pinched blood vessel and other ailments that needed treatment in Singapore.

“He [Sokha] was concerned that the symptoms would deteriorate if there is no proper treatment,” she said. “He also told us that he would not run away, even if someone told him to run away.”

Sokha was arrested in a midnight raid on September 3 and provisionally charged with “treason”. His party was summarily dissolved in November on similar grounds by the Supreme Court for allegedly plotting a purported “revolution”.

Over the course of his six months in prison, many opposition members have fled the country, with the vast majority of the CNRP’s elected positions being absorbed by the ruling party.

Officials have offered little evidence to substantiate the accusations beyond a years-old video of Sokha telling an audience of supporters in Australia that he received advice on his political career from the United States.

Monday’s hearing was conducted by Judge Rithy and Prosecutor Seang Sok at the remote Trapaing Phlong Prison in Tbong Khmum, where Sokha has been held since September, with the exception of a bail hearing last month in Phnom Penh, where his request for release was rejected.

Sopheary said Rithy attempted to question Sokha on the facts of the case being made against him, but that the opposition leader refused to answer them because he had already responded to such a line of interrogation. “The lawyers will file complaint to the Appeal Court against the decision to extend his detention,” she said.

The prospects of any pardon for Sokha and other targeted CNRP officials dimmed, with Hun Sen warning in a speech he would not extend another olive branch to the former opposition leader.

Political commentator Lao Mong Hay said there was little chance Hun Sen would release Sokha ahead of the elections because it would undo the premier’s campaign to subdue opposition supporters and get rid of the CNRP.

Additionally, the release of Sokha before July could become a rallying point for supporters, he said. “A trial before the election would further undermine the legitimacy of the election. A trial after the election would not affect its results,” he said.

Former CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said the continued detention of Sokha, given his health, was not a “risk that the authorities should take”, adding he should be let go with ample time to contest the July poll. “They cannot release him a day before the elections. They have to allow the CNRP to contest the elections and have time to prepare.”

Updated: 6:47am, Tuesday 6 March 2018

MOST VIEWED

  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Inter-provincial travel ban lifted; Phnom Penh and Takmao not exempted

    The government on April 25 decided to lift the inter-provincial travel ban and the closure of tourist attractions across the country, effectively immediately. The travel ban and closures of all resorts were imposed on April 6 and 17 respectively in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19,

  • Gov't mulls extension of Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown

    The Inter-ministerial National Commission for the Control and Enforcement of Lockdown held a video conference meeting on April 25 to review a draft document on the extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal province’s Takmao town. The meeting was chaired by Minister of

  • Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown extended for another week

    The government late on April 26 announced an extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province for another seven days – or longer if residents do not comply with Covid-19 preventive measures and the community outbreak does not subside – until May 5. According

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Tottenham Hotspur to wear ISF Cambodia logo on jerseys in match against Sheffield United

    Last year, the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) – an NGO providing education to underprivileged children in Cambodia – made global headlines with its “socially distanced” football initiative. This year, a world-class football club – Tottenham Hotspur FC – will wear special edition jerseys to show their support for ISF