CAMBODIA’S bar association has written a letter to the Ministry of Justice calling on it to release on bail the former head of an informal investment scheme, saying the woman had been illegally detained for longer than the allowable time.
In the letter, dated January 10, sent to Justice Minister Ang Vongvathana, Bun Hun, president of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, reiterated the requests of defence lawyer Im Socheat, who has maintained that the seven-month detention of his client – former tontine leader Ream Darin, who faces fraud charges – violates articles 209 and 378 of the penal code.
Sharon Chritoph, prisons consultant for the rights group Licadho, said articles 208 and 209 of the code stipulate that, in the case of a misdemeanour, a suspect cannot be detained before trial for more than half the duration of the minimum sentence of the crime of which they are accused.
The minimum sentence for fraud, under article 378, is six months.
“Therefore, the temporary detention for this case must not be over three months,” Bun Hun’s letter reads.
“We do not have the right to order a release, but we are the independent Bar Association, and we just want to defend a lawyer who enforces the law properly,” the letter says.
Sam Pracheameanith, cabinet chief at the Ministry of Justice, said he had not seen the letter, but would pass it through the proper channels.
“If it is in competence of a judge, we will ask a judge to report. If it is in competence of a prosecutor, we will ask a prosecutor to report it to the minister,” he said, noting that once a judge or prosecutor had reported on the matter, ministry procedures would dictate what steps to take.
Darin’s lawyer, Im Socheat, said he had never seen a case of such a long detention, but expressed optimism.
“If the letter reaches the minister, we think he will intervene to release [her], because this is a serious human-rights abuse,” Socheat said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at [email protected]