A Phnom Penh municipal judge is expected to announce a verdict this morning for six people arrested in connection with a September clash at the Kbal Thnal overpass, a week after the verdict was originally expected.
Authorities took the six men into custody at the overpass on the night of September 15, when a mixture of commuters and demonstrators participating in a three-day Cambodia National Rescue Party protest allegedly threw rocks and damaged property at a roadblock set up there. Police responded by opening fire on the crowd, killing one and injuring dozens.
“Based on total lack of evidence and inability of any police witnesses to identify six [defendants], we hope the court will drop the charges and release the six … and not sway according to political pressure,” Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, said in a text message yesterday.
Licadho is one of two groups providing legal representation for the defendants.
Prosecutors called about 30 witnesses – all police – to the stand during the trial last week. None could identify any of the six defendants, nor did any know which police department made the arrests.
All defendants deny charges against them, with more than one accusing police of torturing them during interrogations.
Nguyen Thydoc, the only defendant who has not received bail, said in court last week that his confession was false, and that he only admitted to throwing rocks after police repeatedly shocked him with electric batons.
If convicted of intentional violence and damage to public property, defendants face sentences ranging from two to five years and fines of up to 10 million riel ($2,500).
Postponement of the verdict last week did not come as a shock, said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
“I’m not surprised, because I think [the verdict is] going to be decided by the ruling party.”
But Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday said government officials have no say in court decisions.
“The judge has a [jurisdiction],” Siphan said. “It’s his or her own judgement.”