A PHNOM Penh Municipal Court judge has ordered a new investigation into a failed bomb plot, saying there was insufficient evidence to convict five men associated with the so-called Tiger Head Movement.
The surprise move came Wednesday, a date the judge had originally scheduled to announce a verdict in the case, which has stretched on since January.
“There will be another session once an investigation is completed,” said presiding Judge Chhay Kong, who did not say how long a new investigation would take or when the court case might resume.
Chhay Kong also ordered the five defendants, who are accused of planting explosives outside the Defence Ministry and state television station TV3 in January, as well as plotting to blow up the city’s Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship Monument in 2007, to remain in pre-trial detention.
A lawyer for Som Ek, the alleged mastermind behind the plots, criticised the decision.
“It is a mistake for court officials to expand the case for almost a year, without collecting enough evidence,” said Sam Sokong, a lawyer with the Cambodian Defenders Project.
According to law, he said, his client must be released after 18 months if the court is unable to find enough evidence.
The defendants – Som Ek, Loeuk Bunhean, Phy Savoeung, Pov Vannara and Chea Kimyan – face charges relating to the alleged bomb plots as well as allegedly recruiting and training terrorists for the Khmer National Unity Front, another name for the Tiger Head Movement. If convicted, the men face sentences of 20 to 30 years in prison.