The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has jailed a former local officer of the outlawed opposition CNRP for allegedly violating the terms of his bail seven months after he was released from prison alongside dozens of other CNRP members, his lawyer said on Monday.
Judge Koy Sao ordered the arrest and detention of Heng Chan Sothy, the former CNRP deputy chief for Pur Senchey district in Phnom Penh, on Friday for failing to comply with the court’s orders to check in with local authorities while on bail, attorney Sam Sokong told VOD.
However, Sokong disputed the justification provided by the court for Chan Sothy’s arrest.
While a person released on bail is generally required to stay within the country and regularly report to a local authority, Sokong said his client had not received any court orders upon his release on bail in November 2019.
“His failure in showing up is not his mistake. It is the mistake of the court or the authority,” the lawyer said, adding that the charges and arrest were unfair.
Chan Sothy had previously been charged with plotting and incitement to commit a felony in relation to mobilizing support for the announced return of exiled CNRP leaders, which never materialized last year. He has again been detained in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison.
Chan Sothy was first arrested on November 6, a day after 10 security guards at the CNRP headquarters were also arrested in the capital, the Phnom Penh Post reported at the time.
The ex-party officer was released on bail later that month along with about 80 other CNRP members or supporters, Sokong said, adding that Chan Sothy has been the only one among them to be rearrested.
“It is not appropriate under the law and it is an injustice to my client,” Sokong told VOD. “Had he received the [court] order and was informed but he did not fulfill those duties, then the investigating judge has the right to imprison [him] again.”
Heng Srey Roth, Chan Sothy’s daughter, said her father’s arrest on Friday morning in Choam Chao commune was unjust because he had not been active in politics since the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November 2017 and senior party leaders were banned from participating in political activities.
One month after he was released, Srey Roth said her father was beaten on the head by an unknown assailant and the offender was never found nor prosecuted.
“There is no justice for him,” she said.
National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said Chan Sothy was arrested on orders from the court.
“His release does not mean he is free from the offense,” Kim Khoeun said. “If he committed the crime, he will be arrested again. It is not that after being released, he is free for his whole life.”
Am Sam Ath, spokesman for human rights organization Licadho, echoed the lawyer’s claims, saying that Chan Sothy should have been informed of what conditions he must follow upon making bail.
“When there is a legal obligation [for a charged person], it needs to have a conditional order that they had received and had not complied with, then that would be wrongdoing,” Sam Ath said. “But he had not received it, so he does not know [the orders]. So, [the court] cannot implement the duty on him if he has not gotten [the order].”
According to Sokong, 15 former CNRP officials and activists have been arrested since the beginning of this year on plotting and incitement charges. One was released on bail due to serious health issues, he said.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that those stirring up social unrest by calling for borrowers not to repay their debts, apparently alluding to CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy and his supporters, would be arrested — the same day another CNRP member was jailed.
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)