AFTER more than one year in
prison, Srun Vong Vannak an Amnesty International
"prisoner of conscience" was released on Sept
Sam Rainsy's former security chief stepped out of his
cell and into freedom smiling tentatively. His mother,
who had clung to his arm and wailed when he was
convicted, combed his hair fondly as Vannak changed from
prison blues to a white shirt and trousers.
"I'm happy thanks to the generous heart that the
King has for his Cambodian subjects," he said.
"I have done nothing wrong I will keep
smiling." He added that he would resume his
Vannak's Sept 9, 1997 conviction a 13-year sentence for
masterminding the murder of Second Prime Minister Hun
Sen's brother-in-law was immediately denounced by human
rights groups as lacking evidence and politically
Vannak had confessed to the crime on a police tape, but
recanted the confession as soon as he reached court,
claiming police threatened it out of him.
The only other evidence against him was the confessions
of his two convicted co-conspirators, who later recanted
their stories, also claiming duress. Amnesty
International declared all three "prisoners of
conscience" in May 1998.
Legal Aid of Cambodia lawyers said Justice Minister Chem
Sgnoun had finally authorized the release of their client
while he was still abroad in Vietnam.
When the day came at last to take her son home, Sok
Sokhon was calm and her sentiments were simple. "I
am very happy," she said.