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RFA staff denied bail again

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Jailed Radio Free Asia reporters sit among prisoners transported to the Supreme Court on Monday. Heng Chivoan

RFA staff denied bail again

The wife of one of two jailed Radio Free Asia staff members expressed “disappointment” after the Supreme Court on Monday rejected her husband and his co-defendant’s second bail request in a decision their families and lawyer claimed was “unfair”.

Oun Chhin, 49, and Yeang Sothearin, 35, have been imprisoned since last November on espionage charges.

After the ruling which was made less than an hour after the hearing, Chhin’s wife Heng Sina said outside the courtroom that the pair “had not done anything wrong”, but had already been detained for eight months despite the court not having any clear evidence to support the charges.

“I am really disappointed after hearing the court decide not to release my husband on bail. It is unfair on my husband because the court has already detained him for eight months, but no evidence has been [brought]."

“My husband is [our family’s] breadwinner, so since he has been detained, my family has met with difficulties,” she said.

Sothearin wife Lam Chantha also called the decision “unfair” and spoke of the hardships her family had encountered since her husband’s detention.

“The court continues to detain him, and that continues to affect my family’s living conditions as I have two small children. It is very unfair on my family,” she said.

The lawyer for Chhin and Yeang, Keo Vanny, told journalists at the court that he considered the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold an Appeal Court ruling as unfair.

This, he said is because his clients had already been detained for more than eight months without obtaining a trial date.

“The court has not shown any evidence. If they were released on bail [with their passports seized], what would be the problem? And there is no evidence supporting the [court] decision or the [espionage] claims. So it is really unfair to both my clients,” Vanny said.

He confirmed that they have a request filed with the Supreme Court for legal proceedings against them to be dropped, arguing that the authorities have held them illegally.

The request maintains that at the start of the case, they were detained without official permission from the court for longer than the 48 hours stipulated by law. And they are still waiting on a decision, he said.

Vanny said he would discuss with his clients whether to file a further bail request.

However, deputy general prosecutor Chhuon Chantha said he agreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“It is a [serious] felony case, so for a clear and thorough investigation, it requires the accused be detained. So the decisions of investigating judges at the Municipal Court and Appeal Court are correct. I support the decisions,” he said.

Vanny said he would file a request to speed up the investigation process so his clients could be sent to trial.

Chhin and Sothearin were arrested on November 14, last year on espionage charges. According to Article 445 of the Criminal Code, if they are found guilty, the pair faces between seven to 15 years in prison.

In March, an investigation was launched by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court into the pair producing pornography.

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