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Sok Hour trial paused again

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People holding placards demand the release of Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour yesterday morning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Heng Chivoan

Sok Hour trial paused again

Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Ros Piseth has again postponed the trial of opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour, this time to allow the prosecution to dig up more evidence.

Frustrating Sok Hour’s counsel – who told the court they were in a position to present evidence that could clear their client – Piseth yesterday granted a request by deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok, who asked that proceedings halt and relevant experts be ordered to search for more documents.

Sok’s submission concerns documents attesting to the origin of a “fake” 1979 treaty, which Sok Hour presented in a video posted on opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s Facebook page on August 12.

For presenting and commenting on the treaty, Sok Hour, a Sam Rainsy Party senator, faces three charges – forging a public document, using a forged document and incitement.

The charges carry a potential prison term of 17 years. The trial started last Friday but was adjourned until yesterday.

Addressing the trial judges, Sok did not explain why further investigation was required.

Sok Hour’s lawyers Choung Choungy and Sam Sokong opposed the request, but after deliberating for 20 minutes, Piseth granted the postponement, closing the session, which lasted about an hour in total.

Speaking outside the court after the hearing, Choungy labelled the abrupt decision an “injustice”, saying his team was denied an opportunity to present crucial evidence on behalf of Sok Hour, imprisoned since his arrest on August 15.

“It is not right,” Choungy said, stressing his evidence was ready to go.

“It is just one [piece of] evidence which proves that my client is clean. If the court considers [it] in detail, then my client will be acquitted.”

Fearing “dishonest” people may seek to undermine the case, Choungy did not detail the evidence, but said it could have been presented via an internet connection in the court.

During the trial’s opening day, Sok Hour denied fabricating the treaty, saying he discovered it through a Google search in 2006 or 2007 and did not know it was a fake.

Article 4 of the treaty in question purports to show Heng Samrin, head of state in 1979 and current National Assembly president, agreeing to dissolve Cambodia’s border with Vietnam. Prime Minister Hun Sen called Sok Hour’s post treasonous and ordered his arrest.

Yesterday in court, Sok Hour was asked about his movements after the arrest order.

The dual French-Cambodian citizen Sok Hour said he initially went to the French Embassy to discuss the case, then visited Kem Sokha’s house in Tuol Kork but was unable to meet the CNRP vice president.

He then went to CNRP lawmaker Yun Tharo’s house in Sen Sok district where he was arrested by armed military police.

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