A man detained on drug charges was released yesterday and cleared of all charges after spending more than a year in pre-trial detention, a stay the investigating judge admitted “might be illegal”.
The defendant, Suon Ouddom, 22, was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking on September 17, 2014, in a rental room in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district, where police confiscated a package of powder.
Tests on the powder came up negative for illegal substances on December 1, 2015, and were submitted to the court on January 13, although the verdict was not handed down until yesterday.
Investigating judge Chuon Sorasey said that not only were the results negative, but they corroborated a preliminary police result that had reached the same conclusion months earlier.
“It was the procedure of the prosecutor and the prior investigating judge,” Sorasey said in attempting to explain the long incarceration.
“The police’s primary investigation showed he did not have drugs but they detained him, and the prosecutor charged him.
“The punishment for him might be illegal.”
In the hands of the previous judge, Sorasey said, the substance had not originally been submitted to the proper authorities for appropriate testing.