Kem Sokha’s Lawyers Make Third Appeal for Trial to Resume

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

Former opposition leader Kem Sokha’s trial for treason, now suspended for 10 months, should be resumed and further delays avoided, his lawyers said in an appeal to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

CNRP president Sokha was arrested in September 2017 and accused of colluding with foreign powers to topple the government. The main opposition party was dissolved two months later, leading to widespread international criticism and the ruling CPP taking all 125 National Assembly seats in a national election the following year.

His trial finally began a year ago, but was delayed in March amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Sokha remains under court supervision and banned from political activities.

In a letter dated January 22, Sokha’s lawyers requested that the trial be resumed to prevent further violations of his rights.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Y Rin said Tuesday that the court had received the letter and forwarded the request to the presiding judge.

“He is the one who decides. He has not yet responded. He is looking at it,” Rin said.

Rin added that the delays were caused by the pandemic, and the courts were prioritizing cases where defendants are in prison.

“In his case, he is on bail,” Rin said.

Chan Chen, one of Sokha’s lawyers, said the latest letter was the defense’s third request to resume the trial.

“The indefinite prolongation seriously affects my client’s rights … to a quick and fair trial,” Chen said.

Previous trial hearings have debated whether foreign support helped Sokha launch his Human Rights Party and later merge with the Sam Rainsy Party to form the CNRP, which made major gains during the 2017 commune elections before being dissolved.

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