Kem Sokha Defense to Request Questioning of Foreign Representatives

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CNRP president Kem Sokha leaves the Phnom Penh Muncipal Court on February 5, 2020 (Panha Chorpoan/VOD)

Defense lawyers for treason-accused opposition leader Kem Sokha will ask foreign country representatives to appear in court and answer questions about allegations that Sokha conspired with foreign powers.

Sokha appeared on Wednesday for yet another hearing in his trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where questioning focused on voter registrations during the lead-up to the 2013 national election. Sokha largely answered that he did not know about the details of the process, or he had already addressed similar questions, while the prosecution argued he was not giving straight answers.

Defense lawyers also asked the judge to summon foreign country representatives to the trial, but presiding judge Koy Sao replied that this was outside the court’s jurisdiction.

After the hearing, lawyer Ang Udom said the defense would send requests themselves for the foreign representatives to appear.

Making such a request was not within the powers of the defense, but they would do so anyway because the court would not, Udom said.

“We will open it up to everyone who is in [the case],” he said. A document issued by government lawyers in September 2017 about Sokha’s alleged crime of conspiring with foreign powers to topple the government named nine countries and eight international organizations.

Rights group Adhoc’s spokesperson Soeng Senkaruna agreed that a trial should have the participation of all relevant parties. However, he said the case could drag on endlessly if it were further expanded.

Sokha was arrested in 2017 and his trial began in January 2020.

“We do not know when it will end,” Senkaruna said. “When lawyers continue with another procedure, I think it will be more prolonged, and it is not certain that foreign states or foreign organizations will participate.”

Senkaruna, who observed Wednesday’s hearing, added that the questioning in the courtroom seemed to have little benefit, and caused tension among those present.

The next hearing has been scheduled for April 27.

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