Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KNP security chief held 'illegally' - defenders

KNP security chief held 'illegally' - defenders

KNP security chief held 'illegally' - defenders

LAWYERS defending Khmer Nation Party (KNP) security chief, Srun Vong Vannak, arrested

for his alleged involvement in the murder of Kov Samuth, the brother-in-law of second

prime minister Hun Sen, are seeking a dismissal of the case on the grounds of insufficient

evidence.

An official from Legal Aid of Cambodia (LAC), which is representing Vannak, said

a written request to drop the charges and release the KNP official was to be sent

to Municipal Court Judge Ya Sakarn on May 14.

"We are asking the court to dismiss the case and release Vannak due to lack

of evidence against him," said the LAC official on the condition of anonymity

The source said that the testimony from the two co-defendants in the case, Prom Mean

Rith and Sos Ksim, who is the alleged assassin of Samuth, was "unclear and confused"

but declined to elaborate further for legal reasons.

"We have enough to prove that Vannak didn't commit a crime," added the

official.

Vannak stands accused of masterminding the murder of Samuth, a senior Interior Ministry

official, outside a Phnom Penh restaurant on the morning of Nov 19 last year.

The LAC defense strategy follows the rejection of appeals for Vannak's pre-trial

release by both the Municipal Court and, on May 9, the Court of Appeals.

LAC officials cite numerous violations of Vannak's rights under current Cambodian

law, including the denial of his right to legal counsel for 26 days and a forced

confession to the crime under "mental duress", which he has subsequently

retracted.

"The continous detention of Srun Vong Vannak is unlawful," a May 9 LAC

statement said. "The decisions of the Municipal Court and the Court of Appeals

are inconsistent with current Cambodian laws."

Police arrested Vannak in the Kien Svay area on Feb 14 and he was handcuffed, blindfolded

and placed face down on the seat of a car, according to LAC. For the next 17 days

he was held at at least two different hotels and an apartment for interrogation.

According to Vannak's lawyer, police warned their suspect that he would be handed

over to a special police unit known as Q101 for "physical punishment" if

he didn't admit to his involvement in the assassination.

A former policeman himself, Vannak would have been fully aware of what an encounter

with Q101 entailed.

"The police feel they haven't done their job until they get a confession,"

commented one LAC attorney.

The KNP official finally confessed on the night of Mar 2 and was presented the following

day to Judge Ya Sakarn and Chief Prosecutor Yet Chariya, at which time Vannak refuted

his confession as being given under duress.

However LAC officials say they have seen a police report which dates Vannak's confession

to the day after his arrest. Even so, Cambodian law requires that alleged offenders

should be brought before judicial authorities and given access to legal representatives

within 48 hours of their arrest.

LAC representatives say that political interest in the case has made their task more

difficult and admit to concerns over their own safety.

"It's easy to lob a grenade over the fence or follow someone home after work,"

said one official.

Nevertheless they are determined to redress the numerous "procedural errors"

and rights violations surrounding the detention and prosecution of their client.

"The world is watching. It is a good opportunity to show that the judiciary

is independent and that ordinary people can get justice," said one defender.

"The powers that be have a unique opportunity to show that Cambodia does respect

the law," the official added.

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