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Legislator, lawyer to skip trial

Legislator, lawyer to skip trial

Ho Vann likely to be tried in absentia on charges he defamed officers

NEITHER opposition lawmaker Ho Vann nor his former attorney will appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court today to answer to disinformation and defamation charges filed against him, but his supporters said Thursday that this would have little effect on the outcome of his case, which they described as both preordained and highly politicised.

"Whether Ho Vann shows up at the trial tomorrow or not is not important because we expect the court will decide because of orders from the ruling Cambodian People's Party," Yim Sovann said.

Ho Vann, who is currently in the United States, was accused of defaming 22 senior RCAF officials after he made comments to a local newspaper that the officials say denigrate the quality of academic degrees they received from a Vietnamese military institute. He has since said he was misquoted.

The reporter who quoted him, Neou Vannarin of The Cambodia Daily, has also been summoned to appear today.

If convicted, Ho Vann could become the third government critic to receive a prison sentence since the opposition-aligned publisher Hang Chakra was sentenced to one year in prison on June 26. Khmer Civilisation Foundation Chairman Moeung Sonn received a two-year sentence on Tuesday for criticising a light installation project at Angkor Wat temple.

Yim Sovann said Thursday that Ho Vann had not had time to find a new lawyer after his previous lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, who was facing a defamation charge of his own and possible disbarment, defected to the CPP earlier this month.

Along with other Ho Vann supporters, Yim Sovann criticised the charges against him as part of a concerted political attack against the party.
But Cheam Yeap, a senior CPP lawmaker, said the outcome of the case was up to the court and thus would not be influenced by politics.
"The case is not in government hands," he said.

Chev Keng, president of the Phnom Penh Muncipal Court, was unavailable for comment on Thursday, and Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun declined to speak with a reporter.