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Union leader calls for justice

Union leader calls for justice

Free Trade Union President Chea Mony continues to maintain innocence of the two men

convicted of murdering his brother, union leader Chea Vichea, and claimed on February

6 that the real killer will be brought to justice soon.

"I strongly believe that the authorities know clearly that the two suspects

are not the real killers and the real killer is still at large," Mony told the

Post. "If they use their professionalism they will find the real killer."

Mony said he has spoken to some witnesses at the scene of Vichea's murder on January

22, 2004, and they have told him about the description of the killers.

"Before, when Chea Vichea was assassinated we claimed that the killer was a

high-ranking official," Mony said. "Now, we have new information about

the man who shot my brother and I believe that the real killer will soon be found."

On August 1, 2005, the Phnom Penh municipal court sentenced Sok Samoeun, 37, and

Bourn Samnang, 24, to 20 years in prison for the assassination of Vichea, a former

FTU president and Sam Rainsy Party supporter who was shot three times while reading

a newspaper outside Phnom Penh's Wat Lanka on January 22, 2004.

Samnang was arrested on January 28, at his girlfriend's house in Neak Loeung and

Samoeun was arrested the same day in Phnom Penh. Both say they were elsewhere at

the time of the murder. Human rights groups have criticized the conviction and called

a court proceedings a "show trial."

The parents of Samnang and Samoeun wrote letters to King Norodom Sihamoni, Prince

Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene. On August 17, former King

Norodom Sihanouk wrote a letter from Beijing to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking that

he consider the matter.

Nuon Kimsri, mother of Samnang, expects that someday her son will be released from

prison. She said she was encouraged by the royal pardons issued to Sam Rainsy and

Cheam Channy earlier this month and the leniency awarded to certain human rights

activists.

"I would like to appeal to Samdech Prime Minister to help to release my son,

he is not the killer," Kimsri said "Only the King [Sihamoni] and Samdech

Hun Sen can help my son."

Thun Saray, president of local human rights Adhoc and chairperson of Cambodian Human

Rights Action Committee, said the King should provide amnesty to both Bourn Samnang

and Sok Samoeun because their trial was unfair.

"I think an amnesty should be provided to general people as well, not only politicians,"

said Saray.

Ten Phnom Penh municipal police officers were arrested late last month for their

involvement in the killing of Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Sok Sethamony in 2003,

and the attempted murder of Sao Sokha, national military police commander, and Ouk

Savouth, chief of Phnom Penh municipal court prosecutor.

Chev Keng, chief of Phnom Penh municipal court and the investigating judge, told

the Post on February 9 that he questioned the police officers on January 27. Five

have been charged with intentional killing, and five others were charged with premeditated

killing.

"I'm making further investigation," Keng said "They involved with

serious crimes so I have to investigate carefully to see how many criminal cases

did they involve."

According to the investigation, the members of the group were allegedly involved

with about 40 criminal cases in the last few years.

But Naly Pilorge, director of NGO Licadho, said at least one of the police officers

arrested was involved in the investigation of Chea Vichea's murder, and the arrest

of Samnang and Samoeun.

Pilorge added that there have always been concerns about the standards of investigation

conducted by the police into the Vichea murder.

"We do not have information leading to identify the person(s) who killed Chea

Vichea, but we continue to believe that there was inadequate evidence to convict

Bourn Samnang and Sok Samoeun of the crime," Pilorge said. "In light of

the recent arrest of a police officer involved in the investigation and arrest of

Bourn Samnang and Sok Samoeun, we firmly believe that this is one more reason to

reopen the case file of the killing of Vichea."

Pilorge said they [Samnang and Samoeun] have appealed to the Court of Appeal against

their conviction but it has yet to hear the case and she hopes it will do so quickly.

Pilorge said based on the lack of evidence against them and on the violations of

their rights, which occurred during the police investigation and the court trial,

the convctions are unjust.

"We believe Bourn Samnang and Sok Samoeun should be released from prison in

any lawful way possible," she said.

Khov Chantha, defense lawyer for Samoeun, said an appeal was lodged immediately after

the court announced the conviction, but there has still been no contact from the

court.

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