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‘No evidence’, admits prosecutor in defamation trial

Chan Vichet speaks with reporters outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2013.
Chan Vichet speaks with reporters outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2013. Vireak Mai

‘No evidence’, admits prosecutor in defamation trial

The prosecutor in a defamation trial wrapped his case in novel fashion yesterday, telling the Phnom Penh Municipal Court that there was “no evidence” of the alleged offence.

It wasn’t the first baffling turn of events in the trial, which was delayed last month after defence counsel pointed out that former presiding judge Svay Tonh, having already served as investigating judge, was ineligible to oversee the trial.

Judge Kor Vandy was on the bench as proceedings resumed yesterday in the case brought by Chan Vichet. The ex-Equitable Cambodia employee is suing his former boss, executive director Eang Vuthy, along with past and present HR directors Chheang Phea and Phen Kimsong over a memo circulated between the three prior to his dismissal last July.

Vichet’s lawyer Sao Bonat said that despite the letter’s limited reach, he considered it defamatory nonetheless.

“Spreading [the information] affected the reputation of my client, so it is enough to charge them with defamation,” Bonat said, adding that Vichet’s expedited dismissal “shows the team’s bad intentions”.

Equitable Cambodia program manager Bun Makara said that while he could not go into details, the NGO’s HR policy allows for immediate dismissal in cases of “serious misconduct”, which he said was present in this instance.

Defence lawyer Suon Bunthoeun argued yesterday that the case fell outside the bounds of defamation as it was a private workplace dispute.

Prosecutor Seng Heang seemingly agreed, advising judge Vandy in his closing remarks that “there is no evidence” of defamation.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said yesterday he could not recall a judge who delivered a guilty verdict after a prosecutor declared there was no evidence.

A verdict is due August 22.

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