Five international NGOs on Sunday called for witness bribery charges brought against human rights activists dubbed the “Adhoc 5” to be dropped.
The case is linked to allegations levelled against court dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha which claimed he had an affair with a hairdresser.
Four members of staff at rights group Adhoc – Nay Vanda, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony, and Ny Chakrya, formerly of Adhoc and the National Election Committee – were detained in April 2016 following a claim from Kom Chandaraty that they had bribed her to deny the purported extramarital affair.
They were released on bail in late June last year after spending over a year in pre-trial detention. The case has been criticised as politically motivated, while the five have strenuously denied the allegations.
Sokha is currently being held in pre-trial detention on treason charges.
Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Asian Network for Free Elections, Civicus, Human Rights Watch and Southeast Asian Press Alliance, yesterday issued a joint press release calling what they claim to be “fabricated” charges to be dropped.
“The Adhoc 5 case is emblematic of the absurd legal harassment that activists and human rights defenders face fighting for justice and human rights in Cambodia,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Yi Soksan, one of the five, said yesterday that he would be the first to face the investigating judge on Monday morning to answer questions in order to have the charges dropped.
He said he and the other Adhoc workers had only performed human rights and social work in line with the organisation’s procedures and with permission from the Ministry of Interior since it began operating in 1991.
“We did our usual activities – helping victims. We believe the court will drop the charges against us, people who only work to solve social problems.
“We consider human rights work like the work of the Red Cross and lawyers and doctors. We help people who receive injustice, without political discrimination,” he said.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said the Adhoc 5 case was different from the recent cases in which the convicted had received pardons from King Norodom Sihamoni after a request from prime minister-designate Hun Sen because they have yet to face trial.
“Only the court can drop the charges. If the [defendants] provide new evidence, arguments and testimony, and can prove to the court that they are not guilty, then the court can drop the charges.”