The Ratanakiri Provincial Court on Tuesday dropped the incitement charges leveled against two former reporters for the Cambodia Daily as the plaintiff in the case withdrew his complaint three years after bringing them to the court.
Defense lawyer Sek Sophorn told VOD on Tuesday evening that Judge Kong Taing Meng ruled to end the case against Aun Pheap and Zsombor Peter.
“He decided to have Aun Pheap and Zsombor Peter totally freed from the charges, and the decision was announced publicly,” Sophorn said.
The accusations date back to May 2017, when Peter and Pheap traveled to Ratanakiri province’s Pate commune, the only Ratanakiri commune that the ruling CPP did not win in the previous commune elections of 2012.
The plaintiff in this case, Romam Yuot, who was the incumbent Sam Rainsy Party commune chief at the time of the reporters’ trip, withdrew his complaint during the hearing, Sophorn said.
“[Yuot] said he stopped complaining and that it has been a long time already and [he] almost forgot everything,” he said. “He said it like that, and the judge asked him to clarify that he really wanted to end his complaint.”
The trial had been originally scheduled for Christmas last year, but was then delayed indefinitely after a different judge was sent on a “special mission to India.”
Sophorn welcomed the decision, saying the court delivered justice to his clients, who are now both outside the country.
Provincial court spokesperson Keo Pisoth confirmed that the case was dismissed after the plaintiff decided to withdraw the complaint, but said he did not know the reason behind this decision. Pisoth said the judge would issue a formal order within 10 days.
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.