Lawyers for Muslim community leader Othsman Hassan said their client is seeking $1 million from fellow community leader Ahmad Yahya in a defamation case pertaining to a mosque-adjacent road that was heard at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.
Hassan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, launched the defamation case against Yahya, himself a secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, for allegedly telling the Thmey Thmey local media outlet on April 28 and a Muslim radio station that Hassan had requested approval to build a road through land belonging to the mosque at Boeung Kak.
The road has created tension among the Muslim community over concerns that it would disturb people during prayers, with Yahya having told Thmey Thmey that “when they build the road, the land, good land, that we have will become bad . . . and in all of this there is no one behind it besides Othsman Hassan”, according to a passage read out in court.
Yahya was also quoted in local media as saying that those who managed the area would benefit because they would build condominiums.
During the hearing, Yahya denied having referred to Hassan as a direct beneficiary of the project but maintained that Hassan was behind the project and had helped map out the development.
Hassan was not present yesterday, but one of his lawyers, Koy Kunthy, displayed a map in court that he said was an official map from Phnom Penh City Hall and hadn’t been produced by his client. Yahya claimed that until yesterday he didn’t know there was any such official map.
Hassan couldn’t be reached for comment.
Yahya went on to say yesterday that Hassan was his nephew, and asked the court to dismiss the case because it would create political and familial conflict. “It is up to the court, but please give me justice,” he said.
A verdict is due on August 15.