Som Ek, the leader of the anti-government Tiger Head Movement and convicted mastermind of a 2009 plot to bomb the Ministry of Defence, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Monday for his part in the murder of a man with a sword.
His co-defendant Huor Sambath was given 13 years for carrying out the killing in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district in August 2000.
Sambath was found guilty of stabbing the man to death from behind with a sword, while Ek was convicted of being an accomplice. The victim died instantly.
Judge Yin Saroeun handed down Monday’s verdicts, said Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Suos Vityea Randy.
The Tiger Head Movement, also known as the Khmer National Unity Front, was linked to two alleged bombing attempts – one in front of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument in 2007 and another at the Ministry of Defence in 2009.
Ek, identified as the group’s leader, was arrested in 2009 and convicted over the failed bombings.
Three other members got shorter sentences.
In October 2016, Ek escaped while receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.
Ek had been serving 28 years in prison for training terrorists and planting a bomb at the Ministry of Defence and two at the state-run TV3 in 2009.
He was also serving an 18-year term for the plot to bomb the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship Monument.
Ek, who was jailed at Phnom Penh’s Police Judiciaire (PJ) prison, fled after the guards watching over him while he was in hospital were allegedly drugged.
However, he was later tracked down to Siem Reap province and rearrested after he was found in the province’s Svay Leu district, said Khnang Phnom commune police chief Long Ngeak.
He escaped from the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital at about 10pm on October 8, 2016, after his family members allegedly fed food laced with drugs to two prison guards watching over him while he was being treated for fainting, said prisons officials.
Ngeak said provincial police had informed local authorities that Ek was believed to be in the area and arrested him as he attempted to go into hiding on Kulen mountain. He did not say how provincial police knew Ek was in the area.
Less than 10 minutes later, provincial police had confirmed Ek’s identity after sitting down with him, the officer said, and took him back into custody – but not before he tried to escape again.
“Before being arrested, he seemed to know about the situation and intended to run. As the provincial police were looking at his photograph and asking him to sit while they questioned him, he began to move, but the police handcuffed him.
“During questioning, the police asked him whether he knew about the picture, but he shook his head without even looking at it,” Ngeak said.