The Supreme Court on Monday sent the case of a man convicted in absentia in 2016 for drug dealing back to the Appeal Court after the defence lawyer said a fake document was used to implicate his client.
Chuong Choungy, the defence lawyer for Meng Ratanak, 33, had told the Supreme Court on January 21 that officers from the Phnom Penh municipal police’s drugs unit used a fake document to implicate his client in the trafficking case where 24 packets of methamphetamine were discovered at a rented room in the capital’s Sen Sok district.
Five people were arrested in the raid at Spean Cher Road in Teuk Thla commune on June 14, 2015, but Ratanak was not one of them. He has been in hiding from police ever since.
On 13 June 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Ratanak in absentia to five years imprisonment and ordered him to pay a 10 million riel fine ($2,500) for drug trafficking and using illicit substances in violation of articles 40 and 44 of the Law on Drug Control.
The other five defendants were found guilty of using drugs and sentenced to four years in prison for their role in the crime.
An ID card purportedly belonging to Ratanak was used by police to implicate him in the case, while a witness came forward to say he was a drug dealer.
Choungy told the judge that his client had lost his ID card in 2012 – something corroborated by local authorities.
He said his client reported the loss of his ID card on April 6, 2015 – more than two months before the drug bust occurred – to Kandal province’s Kandal Stung commune authorities.
The local authorities issued a letter confirming that Ratanak’s ID card had been lost since June 26, 2012.
Presiding Judge Saly Theara read out the Supreme Court’s verdict on Monday.
“A witness claimed that Meng Ratanak rented a room for drug trafficking, but his ID was not found by police in the rented room."
“For this reason, the Supreme Court requests the Appeal Court to review the case and the Supreme Court also rejects the Appeal Court’s verdict,” he said.
Defence lawyer Choungy told The Post on Monday that the Supreme Court had made the right decision by asking the Appeal Court to review the case.
“The Supreme Court’s verdict was fair because the verdict renders justice to my client after the Appeal Court had neglected evidence. The Supreme Court has re-considered the evidence that will help free my client,” he said.
Choungy had previously said, “I don’t know where police chief Eav Phearith from the Phnom Penh municipal police’s anti-drug office got my client’s ID card to use as evidence to charge him in this case.
“[Phearith] used a copy of an ID card as false evidence and arranged a witness to accuse my client of being a drug dealer.”
Phearith denied Choungy’s accusation.