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Murder rap sticks in trade union case

Murder rap sticks in trade union case

The re-investigation into the murder of Free Trade Union of Workers of the

Kingdom of Cambodia President Chea Vichea ended in late November and concluded

nothing was wrong with the original investigation.

Phnom Penh Municipal

Court Deputy Prosecutor Khut Sopheang originally received the case from

investigating judge Nhean Sovan. On December 7, Sopheang sent the case back to

Sovan unchanged.

"I have checked the case, and we have not changed our

accusations against the murder suspects," Sopheang told the Post.

He said

he does not know when the murder trial will begin.

Phnom Penh Municipal

Court Vice-President Nup Sophon, who is in charge of appointing judges for

trials, said he had not received the case yet.

"I think it is still in

the hands of the investigating judge, because he has many cases to run and it

would probably be late," Sophon told the Post on December 13.

The Post

could not contact Judge Sovan for comments.

Two men, Bourn Samnang, 23,

and Sok Samoeun, 36, stand accused of the January 22 murder of Vichea, an

outspoken Sam Rainsy Party supporter. The two suspects were arrested on January

28.

Two days later, on January 30, Samnang confessed to shooting Vichea,

but later retracted his admission, telling reporters and a news conference that

he was beaten. Samoeun has always denied the charge.

The original charges

were dropped on March 19 by investigating judge Hing Thirith, citing lack of

evidence against the two suspects. Judge Thirith has since been transferred to

Stung Treng Province.

The prosecution lodged an appeal to Judge Thirith's

original decision.

On July 1, the Court of Appeal upheld the

prosecution's challenge and sent the case back the Municipal Court, saying the

previous investigation was not completed. The case was then assigned to Judge

Sovan on September 23.

Samoeun's defense lawyer, Khov Chantha, said the

investigating judge had already found that the suspects were not involved in the

killing.

"The investigating judge told me that the suspects were

innocent, but it is their bad luck," said Chantha.

He said the

investigating judge, prosecutor and Appeal Court judge passed the case on to

each other because they were afraid of losing their positions, or suffering the

same fate as Judge Thirith.

Chantha said both suspects have been detained

at Provisional Jail since they were arrested.

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