The Court of Appeal yesterday rejected a request to postpone and proceeded with hearings in the appeal filed by three environmental activists from the group Mother Nature, with neither the activists nor their lawyers present.
The activists – Sun Mala, Try Sovikea and Sim Somnang – were convicted in July of threatening to destroy the equipment of a sand-dredging firm during a pair of 2015 protests in Koh Kong province.
Yesterday, judge Sin Visal read a motion from the trio’s attorneys, who said they had had no recent contact with their clients – who last week fled the country fearing reinstatement of their suspended sentences –and asked for a postponement until new witnesses can be called.
But the court rejected the request, claiming sufficient witnesses had already been questioned at the Koh Kong Provincial Court, and that the additional witnesses sought by the attorneys were unnecessary.
Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith, who a day earlier suggested no case would be heard without defence lawyers present, yesterday said that because the crime in question is considered a “minor offence”, none were necessary.
“According to the penal codes, if the [punishment] is lower than three years, the judges can proceed without defence lawyers,” he said.
During the hearing, prosecutor Chea Met claimed there is enough evidence to uphold the original sentence. A verdict is due on February 15.
Sam Chamroeun, a lawyer for one of the activists, yesterday said he agreed the court was legally allowed to proceed without him and he would confer with his clients post-verdict.