The Phnom Penh Municipal Court of Appeal on April 6 heard the case of one of the 16 men who were each sentenced to 13 years in prison for the murder of a man accused of practising sorcery. The murder happened in 2014 in Kraing Leav commune’s Prey Chunloun village of Takeo province’s Bati district.

At the courtroom, the accused – Khun Veana, known as Ava, 40, formerly a resident of the commune’s Chheuteal Prey village – told Presiding Judge Sin Visal that on the evening of April 27, 2014, in Prey Chunloun village, about 500 people from three villages gathered in front on the house of Pov Sovann, 35, accusing him of practising sorcery and shouting threats at him.

Ava said he was walking from Chheuteal Chrey village when he heard the villages shouting. He witnessed the villagers storming the victim’s house and beating him to death with wooden posts and stones. After the incident, he returned to his home – in a different village – where he was arrested in September 2017 on the orders of the provincial court.

“I did not take part in the beating or killing of the victim. None of my family members were ill or had any reason to suspect the man was a sorcerer, but on the day of the incident I did shout ‘kill’ – as did nearly everyone in the crowd,” he said.

The provincial court heard the case and amended the charges of 16 men from premeditated murder to aggravated deliberate violence. Each man received a 13-year sentence.

“I have been imprisoned for five years and would like the judge to reduce my sentence so I can go home and see my wife and children soon. I joined the crowd in shouting, but I did not kill the victim,” he added.

Prosecutor Chea Meth concluded that after studying the facts and listening to the statements of the accused, he found Veana’s version of events to be unbelievable and concluded that he had clearly committed the act he was found guilty of by the provincial court.

“The Takeo Provincial Court’s decision was correct. I would like the verdict to be upheld,” he suggested.

A defence lawyer for the accused who asked not to be named said on April 6 that according to the statements and facts, his client had joined the crowd in calling for the death of the victim, but asked that the sentence be reduced.

Judge Visal said a verdict will be handed down on April 26.