Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday held a preliminary hearing in the case of a prominent businessman’s wife, who stands accused of attempting to murder her stepdaughter in June.
Seng Chenda appeared in court yesterday to face accusations that she masterminded a plot to murder Suv Chantha, who is the daughter of her husband, tycoon Khaou Chuly, from a previous marriage.
Suv Chantha is married to Sun Chanthol, vice chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia and a former minister of public works and transport.
Seng Chenda, 38, and four accomplices have been charged with attempted murder under Article 3 of the Law on Aggravating Circumstances for Felonies, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
During pretrial hearings yesterday, presiding Judge Sin Visal rejected a fourth request by Seng Chenda’s lawyers to release her on bail and delay hearings in the case, allowing trial hearings to commence.
Suv Chantha’s lawyer Pal Chandara and deputy prosecutor Ed Chheng Huot asked the judge not to release Seng Chenda out of fear she would fail to appear for her trial.
The court rejected an initial request for bail in July, a decision that was upheld by the Appeal Court on August 10 and the Supreme Court on December 15.
In addition to Seng Chenda, 48, the other defendants are Chan Sokha, 38, a maid at Khaou Chuly’s house; Neang Sinath, 25, a maid at Suv Chanthol’s house; Khorn Lak, 30, and Yin Sophearith, 25, both of whom were security guards at one of Khaou Chuly’s companies. All pleaded not guilty to the charge.
“Please free me from the charges because I didn’t mastermind the murder and rape plot, a story police invented,” Seng Chenda told the court.
One defendant requested that the court dismiss statements made to the police during interrogations.
“I would like to throw out all my testimonies to police officials at the Ministry of Interior, which I made under duress and threats from police,” said Chan Sokha, whose arrest is believed to have led police to Seng Chenda.
Chan Sokha told the court that police forced her to confess to purchasing sleeping pills and handing them to Neang Sinath.
Neang Sinath was then to feed them to two guard dogs at Sun Chanthol’s house on the night of June 13, after which she and the three other accomplices were to carry out the murder on the orders of Seng Chenda. Sun Chanthol was overseas at the time.
Chan Sokha said she had denied the charges twice during interrogations, but that during a third session, was “forced to confess”.
“Police brought me to meet directly with Excellency Sun Chanthol who told me to follow the police’s wishes or else my children would be killed,” she said.
Chan Sokha also alleged that the police interrogators took her to a pharmacy to purchase sleeping pills, which they then held as evidence.
Hearings in the case will reconvene January 5.