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Nigerians’ drugs appeal heard

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The Supreme Court has heard the appeal of five of seven Nigerian men. Photo supplied

Nigerians’ drugs appeal heard

The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard the appeal of five of seven Nigerian men who were each sentenced to 10 years in prison on drugs charges.

One was seeking a sentence reduction while the others maintained their innocence.

The appellants argued that they were arrested without evidence, with even the court report not stating the type or amount of the substances in question.

Me Johanudom, 52; Samson Echowdo, 32; Favour Ibezi Mako Oberta, 32; Oragwam Godwin Emeka, 32; Thaddeus Ikechudwu Onyinechi, 37; and Okechukwu Ikefu Aku, 28, were present, the court report stated.

Ezigbo Gabriel Chukwueloka , 42, was absent from court, while Michael Nwankwo, 32, had escaped from custody.

On October 26, 2014, Johanudom was delivering a black plastic bag to a man in Golden Sorya Mall, in the capital’s Daun Penh district, when he was arrested by police.

The report did not specify the type and amount of drugs in question, the defence argued.

Police then took Johanudom to the Borei New World development, in Por Sen Chey district’s Chaom Chao commune, where six others were arrested.

Four more men were detained at a restaurant operated by Echowdo, while two others were arrested on the side of the road in Chaom Chao commune.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on September 18, 2015, sentenced each to 10 years in prison, with a fine of 20 million riel ($5,000), for illegal drug trafficking under Article 40 of the Law on Drugs Control.

Dissatisfied with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court verdict, the seven filed a complaint with the Appeal Court. On August 13, 2016, the Appeal Court upheld the municipal court’s verdict.

At Wednesday’s court hearing, Johanudom told the judge that he came to Cambodia in 2009 for business, but it was not successful. One day a friend asked him to deliver a plastic bag to a man waiting in Golden Sorya Mall.

“I refused to do it at first, but my business was not making money, so I agreed to deliver the plastic bag. My friend gave me $200 for doing so. When I arrived at the appointed place, I was arrested by the police. I would like the court to reduce my sentence,” he said.

Oberta, Emeka and Aku claimed they did not know eachother, but often ate at the restaurant owned by Echowdo, a fellow Nigerian.

The police arrested them while they were eating. Oberta told the judge that he had not committed any crime and had only gone to the restaurant for food.

Prosecutor Veng Bunthoeun said that despite the five appellants denying any wrongdoing, police had investigated thoroughly before making the arrests.

“Based on the evidence and their testimonies, I would like the Appeal Court’s decision to be upheld,” he said.

Sin Vanny, defence lawyer for the six present in court, said one of his clients had pleaded guilty, while the other five had denied any involvement in drug trafficking, insisting police had arrested them without any evidence.

“I would like the court to release five of my clients and reduce the sentence of the other,” Vanny said.

Presiding Judge Soeng Panhavuth said the court would announce its verdict on July 10.

General San Suthy, deputy chief of the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Drug Police, said the men were arrested on the evening of October 26, 2014, in front of Golden Sorya Mall after trying to sell more than half a kilogramme of methamphetamine to undercover police, The Post reported after the original trial in 2015.

Johanudom told The Post after his conviction in September 2015 that he would appeal as the drugs belonged to a Nigerian national who was not arrested.

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