Court Update: Hearings, Appeals Delayed Across the Country

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Khmer Win Party president Soung Sophorn speaks to reporters at a rally in support of unionist Rong Chhun outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on August 13, 2020. (Khan Leakhena/VOD)

Courts in Phnom Penh and Ratanakiri had a flurry of cases and appeal hearings this week, some of which were delayed without reason. Here is a roundup of five cases from Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Local Politician Soung Sophorn Appeals Verdict

Khmer Win Party president Suong Sophorn on Wednesday asked the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh to reduce his sentence and drop a hefty damages linked to his incitement conviction. 

Sophorn was part of the protests outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last year, calling for the release of jailed unionist Rong Chhun, who had made comments about Cambodia’s border with Vietnam. Authorities accused Sophorn of making incendiary comments against a border committee and he was convicted in February 2021 and sentenced to 20 months in prison and asked to pay compensation of around $500,000. 

On Wednesday, Sophorn informed the Appeal Court that he was working as a politician at the time of his arrest for the benefit of citizens and was not trying to incite them.

“I acted previously to protect the people and territory and this act is my role as a politician. When I participate in politics [but] I have no rights to serve the people, what do I participate in?”

“I can’t accept the Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge’s decision. That is why I appealed to the Appeal Court for justice,” Sophorn said.

The Appeal Court on Wednesday also delayed a hearing for CNRP activist Pen Chan Sangkream who was charged last December with incitement and sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined 3 million riels. The appeal verdict will be heard on November 10. Chan Sangkream was also involved in protests in support of Chhun, the jailed unionist.

Mother Nature Activists Appeal Incitement Conviction

Mother Nature co-founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, who was deported from the country, appealed his incitement conviction from May for his involvement in planning a one-person march to highlight the environmental impacts of filling in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Tamok lake.

Defense lawyer Sam Chamroeun told the court that Gonzalez-Davidson was only giving ideas to the youth to participate in protection of the environment and this was not a crime.

“[He] just gave ideas and got such a sentence. Maybe no one wants to give ideas any longer for fear of the effect,” he said. “Alex’s actions are not a kind of conspiracy to incite and his work was done for the benefit of Cambodia.”

Drug Production Sentence Reduced

The Supreme Court on Wednesday reduced the sentence for a Phnom Penh man convicted of drug production from 20 years to 15 years.

Sen Dayousa appealed his conviction at a hearing last week, where he and his lawyer claimed that he was not involved in drug production and that there was testimony from a co-defendant that he was not producing drugs.

He had been sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to 30 years for producing drugs, which was changed to 20 years at the Appeal Court last year.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday further dropped his sentence to 15 years, ignoring his assertion that the co-defendant, Yong Chan Hou Yong, had implicated him out of anger because Dayousa had helped the police arrest Yong. The accusation was later recanted at the Appeal Court, according to Dayousa’s lawyer Nou Chantha.

A Russei Keo police report said Dayousa was arrested with two sachets of drugs in 2016, then led the authorities to a drug production facility in Meanchey district.

Forest Activist’s Verdict Delayed

Ratanakiri forest activist Chorn Phalla had a verdict announcement delayed on Wednesday due to Covid-19 transmission in the provincial prison.

Phalla was accused by local officials for “causing trouble” at a public forum in July. The accusations followed a complaint filed by Phalla against 16 officials and villagers for forestry crimes as well as an alleged beating at the same forum in question.

Sam Titseyha, Phalla’s lawyer, said officials delayed the verdict announcement because a few prison officials have contracted Covid-19. The verdict was earlier scheduled to be read on October 27 but was pushed to November 4.

Ouk Kimchorn, provincial prison chief, said the reason for the delay in transporting the accused and defendants to the court was because there were eight prison officers infected with Covid-19 last week.

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