Full Kem Sokha Video a ‘Gift’ to Prosecution, Government Lawyer Says

3 min read
Kem Sokha speaks to reporters at his house in Phnom Penh on the morning of January 22, 2020. (Chorn Chanren/VOD)

A government lawyer called the defense teams’ evidence a “gift” to his case at the end of the third day of a treason trial against banned opposition leader Kem Sokha.

During Wednesday’s afternoon session, the presiding judge showed the full version of a two-minute video clip that government lawyer Ky Tech had presented as evidence of Sokha conspiring with foreign governments.

Tech expressed concern that he did not have sufficient time to view the full video when the court broke for lunch. But by the end of the day, he said the hourlong video from Melbourne in 2013, in which Sokha speaks about his politics and activism, would aid his case.

“I would like to clarify that this is a prize, a gift,” Tech told reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. “Submitting this evidence, it turns to inculpate [Sokha further] because the previous evidence is short, which is why the public and others said it was not comprehensive.”

There were only two phrases omitted in the two-minute version, he said, “dictatorship” and “dictatorship in Cambodia.”

“Losing these two words, it will not make any change. There is nothing changed in the content,” Tech said. “Actually, adding this evidence even makes me feel stronger and even believe more in this case.”

“In short, Kem Sokha cannot be free.”

From the trial’s opening, Sokha and the defense team requested that the full video be shown, rather than the two-minute clip, in order to show the true intention of the opposition leader’s words.

After the video was shown on the courtroom floor, defense lawyer Meng Sopheary held strong to that belief.

“After we have shown the video, we see that the shorter version loses a lot of important meaning because as we know, two minutes compared with a one-hour-and-three-minute video, how different they are,” Sopheary told reporters outside the courthouse.

She added that the shortened video suggests violence in a way that is absent in the full video.

Two years after his arrest and detention, Sokha’s trial has drawn massive international scrutiny, with the U.S. and E.U. calling for Cambodian courts to drop the case and allow for the full return of Sokha’s main opposition CNRP.

After U.N. representatives said the trial was “tainted with irregularities,” the court opened more seats to reporters, a departure from claims that there was no room for reporters in the first two days of the trial. One of two VOD reporters who requested access was granted entry, though the court did not explain why the second reporter was denied.

Speaking to reporters in front of the courtroom, defense lawyer Chan Chen said that the presiding judge had accepted 35 pieces of evidence submitted by the defense team on Wednesday morning.

Ahead of the morning hearing, Sokha told reporters that his intention was always to promote change through a democratic election, not through violence.

“The strategy is to change positively and not change backwards,” he said.

Additional reporting by Khan Leakhena

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