Appeal Court Drops Charges Against Former Cambodia Daily Journalists

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Former Cambodia Daily reporters Zsombor Peter and Aun Pheap. (Ben Woods)
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A provincial court of appeals has upheld a decision to drop charges against two former Cambodia Daily journalists, potentially bringing to an end a long-running criminal case that has dogged the reporters after the shuttering of their publication.

Aun Pheap and Zsombor Peter had both been indicted in late 2017 by the Ratanakiri Provincial Court on charges of “inciting to commit a crime” stemming from their reporting during that year’s commune council election. Civil society representatives contested the criminal charges against the reporters as being politically motivated. Both men left Cambodia early in the proceedings and have remained overseas throughout the case.

In November 2020, the provincial court dropped the charges against them and the original plaintiff withdrew their complaint. However, the provincial prosecutor appealed the court’s decision to the Court of Appeal in Tbong Khmum, keeping the case alive.

Sek Sophorn, the lawyer representing the pair, told VOD on Wednesday that the provincial appeal court had upheld the lower court’s decision to throw out the charges.

“In terms of the case, we have won,” Sophorn said. “Our clients have received justice and I am happy.”

Ratanakiri Provincial Court spokesperson Keo Pheakdey said procedure dictates the lower court’s prosecutors no longer have the right or authority to file a complaint to the Supreme Court. However, he said the prosecutor general of the Tbong Khmum Appeal Court can still attempt to bring the case to the country’s highest court.

“It is his authority, if he sees that he can appeal, he can do it,” Pheakdey said. “He is the one who decides for himself, because this case is out of the hands of the Ratanakiri Provincial Court.”

VOD could not reach Tbong Khmum Appeal Court spokesperson Kol Bun for comment on Wednesday.

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