Defense Complains of Repetitive Evidence in Protracted Kem Sokha Trial

2 min read
Former opposition leader Kem Sokha waves as he leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in an SUV after his trial resumed on January 19, 2022. (Ouch Sony/VOD)

Defense lawyers complained of lack of progress in the trial of opposition leader Kem Sokha — arrested more than four years ago — as a new series of videos were played in court on Tuesday.

Sokha, president of the main opposition CNRP before he was arrested and the party outlawed in 2017, is accused of treason for conspiring with the U.S. to topple the government. He was jailed for a year before being released under court supervision.

The trial has so far highlighted Sokha’s past speeches saying his political career was supported by the U.S.

During a four-hour hearing on Tuesday, another series of videos was played showing Sokha as well as CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy at demonstrations in 2013. Some were at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park and others in Kampong Cham.

Tensions were again high in the courtroom, as defense lawyer Chan Chen loudly complained that prosecutor Chhay Hong didn’t understand the case and was acting as if he had attended the trial for the first time. Hong responded that Chen was an “evil-minded sweet-talker.”

Unusually, government lawyers did not speak during the hearing.

Ang Udom, one of Sokha’s lawyers, told reporters after leaving the courtroom that the evidence being presented was repetitive and insubstantial.

“The evidence isn’t inculpatory,” Udom said, adding that he was not allowed to complain about the weak evidence during the hearing.

Adhoc spokesperson Soeng Senkaruna, who attended the hearing, agreed with the defense that the evidence being presented by the prosecution appeared to be insignificant, complicated and making no progress.

“The debate over the evidence seems to go back and forth, as I have seen in the past. This series of new videos is no different from the previous videos,” Senkaruna said.

Defense lawyers argued that hearings should be held more than once a week to expedite the trial. Prosecutor Plong Sophal retorted that the case was a major one of national security, not theft, and all evidence must be presented and considered.

If the defense wanted a speedy trial, Sokha should plead guilty, the prosecutor said. Last week, Sophal had suggested another way for a speedy trial would be for Kem Sokha to die.

The trial’s next hearing was scheduled for February 2.

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