PHNOM Penh Municipal court has sentenced Som Ek, the alleged leader of an antigovernment group known as the Tiger Head Movement, to 18 years in prison after finding him guilty of involvement in a failed bomb plot targeting the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship Monument in July 2007.
Som Ek, 44, was arrested in January 2009 after he was accused of planting explosives outside the Ministry of Defence and the state television station TV3 that month.
In that case -- which is also being processed by the court -- he has been charged with delivering, placing, discharging or detonating explosives in a public place and recruiting and training terrorists for the movement, also known as the Khmer National Unity Front.
His alleged role in the 2007 plot led to charges of serving as an accomplice to terrorism and placing an explosive device.
Presiding judge Suos Sam Ath said that the 18-year sentence would be reduced to 16 years and six months because Som Ek’s pretrial detention period had exceeded the legal limit.
“Based on notes and evidence organised by judicial police officials, and conclusions from the court prosecutor and defence lawyer, we determined that Som Ek is the leader of the Tiger Head Movement and the mastermind behind the bomb plot at the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship Monument,” Suos Sam Ath told the court.
He added: “Although the explosion did not injure anyone, it caused public disorder and political instability.”
Speaking to reporters after the verdict was read out, Som Ek said the length of the sentence was “unjust”, citing the July verdict and sentence handed down to Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Geuk Eav, alias Duch. The former commandant of Tuol Sleng prison was sentenced to 30 years behind bars, and will serve no more than 19 with time served factored in.
More verdicts to come
The conviction does not spell the end of court appearances for Som Ek, who still faces a litany of charges related to his alleged role in the Tiger Head Movement.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court is expected to hand down a verdict on October 1 against Som Ek and four others – Loeuk Bunhean, Phy Savoeung, Pov Vannara and Chea Kimyan – suspected of organising the failed January 2009 bomb plot. ...read the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story in online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours.