Phnom Penh Court Postpones Trial of Nine CNRP Senior Leaders

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CNRP leaders Sam Rainsy and Ho Vann (third and second from the right) raise nine fingers along with other CNRP supporters in the U.S. on September 23, 2019 (CNRP activist’s Facebook page)

A trial of nine senior opposition leaders living abroad was delayed on Wednesday morning as defense lawyers requested time for the defendants to attempt to return to the country.

The nine officials of the dissolved CNRP, including party co-founder Sam Rainsy and vice presidents Mu Sochua and Eng Chhai Eang, have been charged with plotting an attack — one of several court cases and summonses against them.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided to postpone the trial until November 25 following a one-hour hearing in the morning.

Defense lawyer Sam Sokong said the defendants living abroad wanted to attend and defend the charges against them.

“They are not afraid. … They want to come and challenge [the case] in court,” Sokong said. But their passports have been revoked by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, he noted.

The ministry revoked 12 passports last year as Rainsy made a promise to attempt a return to the country. He has lived in France since 2015 with a slew of court cases against him in Cambodia. The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in 2017 amid a controversial treason charge against the party’s president.

Last month, the CNRP requested travel access for the nine defendants in the trial, asking that their passports be restored, airlines be permitted to carry them, their names be removed from travel blacklists in neighboring countries, and members of the public be allowed to gather at airports or border checkpoints to greet them.

Deputy prosecutor Seng Hieng on Wednesday questioned why the defendants and their lawyers were not prepared for the trial.

“They intend to avoid the law’s implementation,” Hieng said.

Soung Chanthan, a lawyer representing the government, also criticized the defense for not being ready.

“They are afraid and do not dare to come challenge the case. The government welcomes the challenge,” Chanthan said.

Some 59 CNRP members — including several senior leaders — have also been summoned to appear at the Phnom Penh court on November 26 for incitement and plotting.

The party has previously said that 27 former CNRP activists are currently in jail after being arrested this year.

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