Briefs: New Cases Against Government Critics, Heart Party Trial Delayed

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Heart Party founder Seam Pluk and his lawyer Choung Choungy leave the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh on December 24, 2021. (Ouch Sony/VOD)

A Phnom Penh court has announced three trials involving a political commentator and online critics of the government.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced three trials against political commentator Kim Sok and three government critics, who are most likely living overseas. Sok was previously convicted and served time for incitement and defamation for comments he made about the government in a radio news show.

He now lives overseas and routinely gives interviews to Khmer-language media.

The first case involves Sok, who will be tried on December 5. The case file dates back to February 16, 2017, and involves the charges of public defamation and incitement. This is a similar timeframe to the case where Sok was convicted.

The second case has Sok, Huy Sakil and Meas Leakhena as defendants, where they are charged with incitement. Sakil and Leakhena use their Facebook profiles to criticize the government. A quick scan of their Facebook pages shows Sakil photographed with exiled CNRP leaders. This case will be tried on December 8 and the case file dates back to September 2020.

The third case involves Leakhena and another online critic, Kay Sophy, who are charged with incitement. The case will be tried on December 9 and the cae file was opened in July 2021.

Sok could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

— Ouch Sony

Heart Party Founder’s Trial Delayed

A trial for the founder of the Cambodia National Heart Party was delayed on Tuesday because the defense lawyer was overseas.

Seam Pluk, the founder of the party, was arrested in April and accused of forging documents included in the party’s registration application last year. The Interior Ministry had rejected the application because they claimed the thumbprints used were forged, and also accused the party of being close to exiled CNRP leader Sam Rainsy.

After Pluk failed to appear for questioning in April, he was arrested and charged with forgery under articles 626, 627 and 628 of the Criminal Code. He faces one to three years in prison for both forgery and use of a forged document.

The trial started with the court clerk reading out attendance in court and took the names of Pluk, 12 other defendants and at least 38 witnesses in the case. Pluk, Nou Setheary and Phab Khun were the only defendants present in court, and Setheary’s lawyer, Ket Khy, asked for the trial to be delayed because Choung Chou Ngy, Pluk’s lawyer, was not present in court.

Prosecutor Seng Heang said the charge was a misdemeanor and that the defendant did not need a lawyer to proceed but then agreed to delay the proceedings. Judge Khun Sona agreed to the delay but did not set a new trial date.

— Ouch Sony

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