Lawmakers to face court again

Lawmakers to face court again

Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha and seven Cambodia National Rescue Party politicians and activists arrested last month after a violent demonstration and later released in an apparent sign of goodwill from the ruling party have been summonsed to court for further questioning.

Party officials announced they had been issued fresh summons yesterday and Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Keo Mony confirmed the eight had been asked to appear separately on August 8, 11, 12 and 13.

“I think the court wants to appear that it is independent and dealing with the case,” CNRP public affairs head Mu Sochua said, adding that all, herself included, would attend.

Sokha, who was not at the Freedom Park protest but was acting party leader at the time, was briefly questioned last Friday at the court.

Six CNRP lawmaker-elects and youth activist Oeun Narith were laid with serious charges including insurrection.

They were released on bail from Prey Sar prison on July 22, hours after a political agreement was reached between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the CNRP.

Many observers believed the group was being used as a bargaining chip by the CPP, though the ruling party has strongly refuted any allegation of judicial interference.

The charges were never dropped and the seven face decades in prison if convicted.

However, all except Narith, may soon be protected by parliamentary immunity. The two parties are still hammering out the details of the July 22 agreement in order for the CNRP to swear-in to parliament, but officials have said it could happen next week.

Yesterday, working groups from both sides met to discuss proposed constitutional amendments related to the overhaul of the National Election Committee (NEC) but did not reach any agreement.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng responded to a draft of amendments sent to him by the CNRP with his own draft, that omitted a provision granting parliamentary immunity to all nine NEC members.

Pung Chhiv Kek, a prominent rights activist that has been nominated to serve on the committee by both parties, has asked for immunity, which the CNRP backs.

The CPP disagrees, believing it is a privilege that should only be given to diplomats, parliamentarians and senators, according to senior lawmaker Cheam Yeap.

But the CPP has agreed to grant the NEC an independent budget.

The parties will have further talks after consultations with leaders, opposition spokesman Yem Ponharith said.

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