Just three days before he was to be released after completing an 18-month sentence for defamation, convicted political analyst Kim Sok was taken to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday for further questioning regarding a second charge.
It is alleged that Sok claimed the government has created a system for extrajudicial killings in which the perpetrators would never be found.
Sok was placed in pre-trial detention on February 17 last year for comments on Radio Free Asia (RFA) over the murder of prominent political analyst Kem Ley, who was gunned down in the capital on July 10, 2016.
Sok said on the talk show on February 11, 2017: “After doing those things – killings and other things – [they] finally killed Kem Ley, but people were still [protesting]. So the last approach is using the legal means … their target is not only Sam Rainsy … the goal is to destroy the CNRP [Cambodia National Rescue Party].”
The comments resulted in a court case that saw him charged with defamation and provocation to commit felonies, and in July last year he was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay 800 million riel ($200,000) in compensation to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
But Sok is facing another lawsuit filed by government lawyer Ky Tech on the behalf of Hun Sen over his clarifications to the previous comments.
During an RFA talk show on February 13, last year, Sok denied he had ever accused Prime Minister Hun Sen or the ruling CPP of killing Kem Ley. He said that by “they”, he was referring to “the system”.
“The system under the current government’s control enables killings. There are killings and the murderers cannot be found – not just [in] the case of Kem Ley, but also of other activists,” he said.
In the second case, Tech requested 10 million riel ($2,500) in compensation from Sok and asked the court to sentence him in accordance with the law.
Escorted out of the municipal court on Tuesday, Sok said: “They questioned me on the new case, but I don’t know how they will decide yet.”
Defence lawyer Choung Choungy, who was present at the court with Kim Sok, declined comment.
Prominent legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said Sok’s comments on the different occasions were separate cases. But Sok’s defence lawyer, he added, can request the court to combine them.
Asked why the court proceeded with the second case when the first one was almost complete, he said the court should not have done so.
“In fact, [the court] should not have waited until [the first case] is over. It’s not right. The court can do it this way, but if we think about morality or, in other words, if the detention is for rehabilitation, that’s one thing.
“If the arrest was for the sake of a charge [that would lead to a prison term], then it’s another story,” he said, questioning whether the intention of the court was to deter others.
“In modern countries, [the courts] don’t intend to [only] punish the people … they [also] focus on rehabilitation. But our country is far from that, so perhaps sentencing [and] handcuffing are [preferable] options [for the courts],” he said.