Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Radio Free Asia journalists' detention appeal denied

Radio Free Asia journalists' detention appeal denied

Former RFA reporter Yeang Sothearin leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this month after being questioned in relation to pornography charges the government filed after accusing him and a colleague of espionage.
Former RFA reporter Yeang Sothearin leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this month after being questioned in relation to pornography charges the government filed after accusing him and a colleague of espionage. Pha Lina

Radio Free Asia journalists' detention appeal denied

Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by two imprisoned journalists charged with “espionage”, ruling the circumstances of their arrest and detention were legitimate.

Former Radio Free Asia journalists Yeang Sothearin, 35, and Oun Chhin, 49, were arrested on November 14 on suspicion of reporting stories for the US-funded news outlet, which shuttered its Cambodia operations in September amid a media crackdown.

They were charged four days later with supplying “a foreign state with information which undermines national defence”. If convicted, they face up to 15 years in prison. No trial date has yet been set.

They have also been charged separately for allegedly producing pornography, apparently in relation to widely disseminated photos that purportedly show Chhin performing a sex act, though the identity of the man in the photos can’t be definitively ascertained.

The pair’s lawyer, Keo Vanny, had argued to the court that Chhin and Sothearin had been held for a prolonged time in police detention in violation of the law.

He claimed they were arrested between 8pm and 9pm on November 14 and sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor at 3pm on November 17 – a total of 66 or 67 hours.

By law, a person cannot be detained by police without charge for more than 48 hours, although police can apply for that custody to be extended to 72 hours if they have written permission from a prosecutor. Vanny claims police sought no such permission.

Police claimed they held Chhin and Sothearin for between 42 and 43 hours, from November 14 to 16, before they left police custody and were sent to the municipal court.

But on Wednesday, Appeal Court Judge Phou Povsun dismissed the legal challenge and said the arrest followed legal procedures according to the Criminal Code.

Chhin and Sothearin were not present during the closed court session, nor was their lawyer Vanny, but Sothearin’s family appeared.

“I am very upset. He should be released,” said Sothearin’s wife, Lam Chanthy.

Their arrest came in the wake of a broader political and media crackdown in the lead up to the national elections, which saw the imprisonment of Cambodia National Rescue Party head Kem Sokha and the dissolution of the party.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the

  • S’ville set to turn into ‘second Shenzhen’

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance has awarded a master plan consultancy contract to top Chinese institute for the development and transformation of Preah Sihanouk province into a “Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone”, Southeast Asia’s next logistics and resort hub and innovation centre. The