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RFA reporters’ appeal denied

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Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin have been dealing with the case since their arrests in 2017. Kim Sarom

RFA reporters’ appeal denied

The Appeal Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal by former Radio Free Asia (RFA) reporters Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, also known Socheameta, as against the reinvestigation of espionage charges against them.

The Phnom Penh municipal police arrested Chhin and Sothearin on suspicions of providing sensitive information on Cambodia to RFA in 2017.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged them with “Provision of Information Undermining National Defence to a Foreign State” under Article 444 of the Criminal Code.

A judge ruled in October last year that there was not enough evidence to convict Chhin and Sothearin and decided to send the case for reinvestigation.

On Tuesday, the Appeal Court ruled to uphold the trial court’s ruling that the espionage charges against Chhin and Sothearin be reinvestigated.

“The Appeal Court didn’t state the reason why the verdict was upheld, but it will detail the reason later in a verdict,” Judge Plang Samnang said.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Sam Chamroeun, the defence lawyer, said the Appeal Court did not take enough time to consider the merits of the appeal.

“We can file a grievance with the Supreme Court. I will discuss this work with my clients next week. We have one month to work on this,” he said.

Chhin said he was disappointed with the court’s decision.

“We were hoping for justice. We live within the law under the roof of the Constitution. Now, we don’t know what to do,” Chhin said.

Socheameta said he hoped the new investigation will be swift.

“If the case is left unprocessed, it will tarnish the image of the Appeal Court. Since the case has been re-opened, please proceed with the investigation and conclude it as soon as possible,” he said.

Both journalists have been released on bail after nearly one year in pre-trial detention, but they continue to face constraints on their freedom of movement and are not allowed to leave the country.

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