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Supreme Court rules for appeal rehearing over 55kg-drug case

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Two Chinese nationals were each handed life sentences in 2016 in relations to a drug case involving nearly 55kg of heroin and methamphetamine. Hong Menea

Supreme Court rules for appeal rehearing over 55kg-drug case

The Supreme Court on March 30 ruled in favour of an appeal filed by the defendants in a case that involved nearly 55kg of contraband and drug manufacturing charges. The ruling came a week after their hearing on March 23.

The five accused – Chinese nationals Li Xue, 42, and Teng Yan Ping, 54, along with Cambodian citizens Liv Se, 43; Dam Nha, 55; and Phal Rany, 28 – each had their life imprisonment sentence upheld by the Phnom Penh municipal Court of Appeal on September 23, 2021.

“The Court of Appeal’s decision was not correct in accordance with the laws yet. Therefore, the judgment dated September 23, 2021 is rejected and the case will be returned to the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal for retrial,” said Supreme Court Judge Soeng Panhavuth.

Defence attorney Lo Kimgech, who represents Teng Yan Ping and Li Xue, said by telephone on March 30 that his client Yan Ping had a medical certificate confirming that he has brain cancer and he was only purchasing drugs to reduce his pain, including the 102g of drugs he was arrested with.

Kimgech said the court did not charge, convict or sentence his client correctly. He said his client should have been charged with possession and if convicted then sentenced based on the actual amount of contraband present.

Instead, he said, they accused his client of producing drugs – but did so without evidence – and sentenced him to life in prison unjustly and that is why the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal.

According to the law, Yan Ping was found in possession of 102g and should only have been sentenced to five to 10 years at most, Kimgech said.

He added that his other client, Li Xue, was imprisoned in April 2015 and this incident occurred on June 15, 2015 and, therefore, his client was in prison for two months before another defendant, Phal Rany, was arrested and accused Li Xue of involvement in her crimes.

“The Supreme Court is fair and provided justice by returning my client’s case to the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal to reinvestigate these charges,” he said.

According to the court’s file on the case, on June 16, 2015, police from the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Drug Department carried out an operation against a drug production, processing and trafficking ring run by the five defendants and confiscated nearly 55 kg of methamphetamines and heroin.

The case was initially heard by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the verdict was announced on September 20, 2016. All five defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment and fined 60 million riel ($14,800) each.

The five defendants then appealed to the Appeal Court, which held a trial hearing and ruled that the original verdict and sentence would be upheld on September 23, 2021.

Now, with confirmation of their final appeal by the Supreme Court, the case returns to the Court of Appeal for a rehearing and if the court rules in the defendant’s favour then some or all of the accused may have their sentences adjusted or their cases may be returned to the Municipal Court for a new trial.

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