Disbarred lawyer David Chanaiwa was tried at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday along with his nephew, while a friend was tried in absentia, though the prosecutor recommended the charges be dropped. All three are accused of beating a group of journalists who had come to document a car wreck in which Chanaiwa was reportedly involved in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district.
Chanaiwa, 41, a former lawyer and adviser to senate; Yean Sina, 44, a former secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice; and Prak Ou Fie, 20, a law student who is Chanaiwa’s nephew, face charges of committing a violent act for the March incident.
Reading out the complaint, Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Chaing Sinath said Chanaiwa and Ou Fie, were arrested by police March 19 after the journalists filed complaints claiming they were assaulted by the three when trying to take photographs of a traffic accident involving Ou Fie.
Yean Sina escaped arrest.
Chanaiwa denied the charges saying he was only at the scene of the accident helping his nephew – whose car had been badly damaged.
Pin Kong, chief of Boeung Raing commune police, told the court he did not see Chanaiwa or Sina committing any act of violence.
“I saw Mr David Chanaiwa and Yean Sina surrounded by a group of journalists and a crowd of people. I did not see them beating those journalists,” Kong said. “To rescue them from the crowd of people, I immediately brought them to my office for questioning,” he added.
The five journalists withdrew their complaints and did not show up for the court hearing yesterday.
Sovann Rithy, a reporter for Bayon TV, told the Post that during the conflict he was beaten by Chanaiwa’s group and later requested $10,000 in compensation.
“I withdrew my lawsuit from the court against the three accused people because I was busy with work, and have no time to follow up my lawsuit in court,” he said. “I got a compromise from the accused persons’ families, and have also got compensations from them,” he continued, declining to say how much he received.
Also during their hearing yesterday, the court played video clips of the incident, though no violence could be seen in the clips.
At the close, deputy prosecutor Cheth Khemra asked the charges to be dropped.
“Based on hearings, proof and accused persons’ answers, there’s no evidence to show that they have beaten the victims as accused.” A verdict is due Thursday.