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Lawmaker fights for immunity

Lawmaker fights for immunity

Outspoken opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua has demanded a swift restoration of her parliamentary immunity now that her long-running spat with Prime Minister Hun Sen has come to a close.

Mu Sochua’s immunity was suspended in 2009 to allow her prosecution in a defamation case brought by Hun Sen.

Speaking Tuesday, the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian said she will hold a press conference later this week to demand that her immunity – a right under Cambodia’s Constitution – be restored.

“My immunity was suspended in a hurry by the assembly, so it must be restored in a hurry,” she said.

“My fine was paid by deductions to my salary, so it is time to restore my immunity.”

Mu Sochua’s highly-publicised legal battle with Hun Sen started in April 2009, when she filed a defamation suit against him in relation to comments he made during a speech in Kampot province, in which he allegedly made derogatory comments about a female parliamentarian from that province.

The premier countersued and the court ruled against her, ordering her to pay 16.5 million riel (US$4,084) in fines and compensation to Hun Sen.

Though Mu Sochua refused to pay – saying she was willing to go to jail if necessary – the court issued an order authorising the docking of her salary for four months. The entire 16.5 million riel was eventually paid off in November.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s Banking and Finance Committee, said that parliament was willing to restore Mu Sochua’s immunity, but that procedure required that a request come first from the courts.

“The parliament is waiting for the court’s request. When the process ends, the court must inform the parliament to restore the immunity,” he said.

He indicated that as soon as the court makes a request to parliament, the assembly will convene to restore Mu Sochua’s immunity, something which would be possible without holding a vote.

When contacted Tuesday, Chea Sok Heang, the judge in charge of the case, declined to comment in detail, saying only that the court had to wait for a request from Mu Sochua before taking further action.

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