Analyst Kim Sok Again on Trial for Political Killing Claim

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Kim Sok (Kim Sok’s Facebook page)
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The second of two defamation and incitement cases against a political commentator has resurfaced and was heard today in court.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday tried Kim Sok, who is living overseas after previously serving 18 months in jail for the first of the two linked cases.

Both cases deal with radio interviews Sok gave in February 2017 accusing the ruling CPP of being behind the murder of political analyst Kem Ley.

Apart from court officials, the 45-minute trial hearing had only two reporters and one public audience member present, as both Ky Tech, the plaintiff lawyer representing Prime Minister Hun Sen, and defense lawyer Choung Chou Ngy were absent.

The trial proceeded anyway, with the court clerk saying letters had been sent to both parties through police officials, and neither side had asked for a delay. The prosecution asked for the hearing to proceed.

The court clerk read out government lawyer Tech’s prior testimony. Sok had given two interviews to U.S.-run Radio Free Asia on February 11 and 13, 2017, both times connecting the CPP to the murder of Ley, who was shot at a Phnom Penh gasoline station the previous year.

Sok already served his sentence for the February 11 interview, and was now being tried for the February 13 one. Tech filed his complaint in February 2017.

Tech’s testimony with the investigating judge said Sok was provoking public anger and could destabilize society.

“The claim contains political motivations, a scheme to incite chaos and hatred against Samdech Hun Sen.”

Tech requested 100 million riel, or about $25,000, in compensation.

The court clerk also read out Sok’s testimony given to a prosecutor on April 7, 2017, after his detention.

In the 2017 testimony, Sok said he was not intending to incite anyone as he continued to make his argument about political killings.

He listed previous examples: Thun Bunly, a newspaper publisher and government critic shot dead on May 18, 1996; Piseth Pilika, a classical dancer and star murdered in July 1999 amid claims of links to the prime minister’s family; singer Touch Srey Nich and opposition newspaperman Chou Chetharith shot in the same week in October 2003; labor leader Chea Vichea gunned down outside Phnom Penh’s Wat Langka in 2004; and environmentalist Chut Wutty killed in 2012.

In his testimony, Sok said, “If this was really not systematic, the perpetrator in at least one of the case files would have been sentenced.”

He called on authorities to find the real killers, and to reveal evidence from the cases.

On Monday, prosecutor Seth Vannak said Sok had not backed his defamatory claims with evidence.

“This case affects order and social security. So the prosecution asks the judge to uphold the charge,” Vannak said.

Sok told VOD last month that he was aware that there had been two cases against him, but only learned of the trial hearing when asked by a reporter. He said he believed the trial was meant to dissuade him from considering joining politics.

Defense lawyer Choung Chou Ngy said on Monday that he had not received the court’s notice of the hearing.

“Failing to pass it on is not correct according to the law. The authorities did not properly fulfill their duty.”

Judge Seng Socheat said he would announce a verdict on January 18.

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