Cambodia Daily Reporters’ Trial Set for Tuesday

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Zsombor Peter, a former Cambodia Daily associate editor, works at his computer in the newsroom in Phnom Penh on September 3, 2017, when staff produced the final issue of the newspaper. (Ben Woods)

The trial of former Cambodia Daily journalists Aun Pheap and Zsombor Peter, charged three years ago as the newspaper shut down amid a government crackdown, has been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the Ratanakiri Provincial Court.

Lawyer Sek Sophorn said on Monday that he had received a call about the trial earlier that morning and he would be traveling to Ratanakiri to attend.

“No idea what is going to happen but normally they go ahead,” Sophorn said in a message.

The trial was scheduled for Christmas last year, but delayed indefinitely because the judge had gone on a “special mission to India” at the Justice Ministry’s request.

Sophorn said he was told on Monday that the trial had earlier been scheduled for last week but was postponed. He had not been notified about the earlier November 19 date, he said.

Pheap and Peter, who have both left the country, are accused of incitement following a reporting trip to Ratanakiri ahead of the commune elections in June 2017.

Peter said on Monday that his earlier comments about the case still stand.

He told VOD last year that the case was “completely baseless” and the complaint “should have been thrown out on day one for lacking a shred of evidence or credibility.”

“We were journalists asking registered voters to share their thoughts on a coming election. There is no crime in that,” Peter said at the time.

Provincial court spokesperson Keo Pisoth confirmed the Tuesday trial date and said the notification to lawyer Sophorn — despite being last-minute — had been ordered by the judge and done according to the law.

The Cambodia Daily printed its final newspaper in September 2017 after being hit with a disputed multimillion-dollar tax bill amid a widespread crackdown on civil society, the political opposition and independent media.

Disclosure: Michael Dickison and Ouch Sony worked for the Cambodia Daily in 2017.

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