The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association in Prey Veng province, who was found guilty of defamation in 2009, requested in a hearing yesterday that the Appeal Court reverse the decision.
Chin Rithy, 42, who is also a teacher at Neak Loeung Secondary School, was charged with defamation after school director Yin Sovuthy accused him of telling reporters that he had secretly sold a 6-x-21 metre plot of school land to a fellow teacher.
In November 2009, the provincial court convicted Chin Rithy of defamation and ordered him to pay 10 million riel (US$2,448) in compensation to Yin Sovuthy.
At a hearing yesterday, Appeal Court presiding judge, Sam Rith Saphal, said that Chin Rithy did not have sufficient evidence to prove that Yin Sovuthy had sold school land.
“Chin Rithy’s charge that the school director sold the school land was … [an] allegation without evidence,” he said. “This is what led the school director to sue for defamation.”
Chin Rithy said in court that he had evidence to prove that Yin Sovuthy had built a fence in order to reduce the size of the school grounds. He added that he had submitted letters requesting intervention to the provincial education department and CITA president Rong Chhun in April 2009.
Chin Rithy further denied that he had disseminated the information to reporters. Yin Sovuthy was not present at the hearing yesterday.
Chin Lida, a lawyer from rights group Licadho defending Chin Rithy, said in court that his client had sent the intervention letters in order to protect the school’s interests.
“My client had no intention to disseminate the [information about] irregularity of the school fence to harm anyone’s reputation,” he said.
Appeal Court prosecutor Heang Rith stated in court that Chin Vuthy had not defamed Yin Sovuthy because he had not informed reporters of the alleged “irregularities”.
Sam Rith Saphal said that he would announce a verdict in the appeal on October 6.
CITA vice president Uk Chhayavy said yesterday that the defamation case against Chin Vuthy was a form of “intimidation” and she hoped the court would find justice for him.