Appeal Court Upholds Decision to Reinvestigate RFA Espionage Case

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Former Radio Free Asia journalists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin outside the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh on December 30, 2019. (Khan Leakhena/VOD)

The Appeal Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal made by two former Radio Free Asia journalists to stop the reinvestigation of an espionage case against them more than two years after they were charged.

Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin, who both worked for the U.S.-run news outlet, had objected to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision on October 3 to reinvestigate their case instead of issuing a verdict.

Sothearin and Chhin are charged with supplying a foreign state with information prejudicial to national defense, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. During their trial last year, the pair acknowledged they had filed news reports to Radio Free Asia even after it shuttered its Phnom Penh office in September 2017 amid government pressure — though it was not made clear how they had prejudiced national defense by doing so.

Sothearin, who has since undertaken a freelance reporting project for VOD, said that Presiding Judge Plang Samnang made the announcement on Tuesday. Sothearin and Chhin would consider taking their appeal to the Supreme Court, he said.

Defense lawyer Sam Chamroeun told VOD in a message on Tuesday that the pair had also requested that the municipal court return their confiscated passports and ID cards. The court is also still holding their camera and recording equipment, which was seized when they were arrested, he added.

The two journalists were arrested on November 14, 2017 and put in pretrial detention. They were released on bail and put under court supervision on August 21, 2018.

They are also charged with production of pornography, which is also being reinvestigated. The Appeal Court rejected a separate appeal against the reinvestigation of the pornography charges on December 30.

Additional reporting by Matt Surrusco

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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