Prosecution Shows New Evidence in Sokha Trial, Defense Says Case is Shaky

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Kem Sokha outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on July 27, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)
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The prosecution submitted a new audio clip of a former CNRP lawmaker to bolster their case against opposition leader Kem Sokha, with his defense team saying the development shows the case was faltering for lack of material to support the treason charges. 

Kem Sokha has been on trial since 2020 — with long breaks during the Covid-19 pandemic — for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government with foreign powers. He has contested the charges and continued to question the evidence presented against him on Wednesday.

Prosecutor Plang Sophal submitted a one-minute audio clip of former CNRP lawmaker Ho Vann, which he said had been recorded by the anti-cyber crime unit in relation to a separate case. 

This audio clip is not in the existing case file forwarded from the investigating judge to the trial judge. The panel of judges allowed for the prosecution and defense to make oral submissions about the new evidence during Wednesday’s hearing and will decide if it can be included in the case on August 25. 

The audio clip, played in court, only has Vann’s voice on it and the prosecution did not mention who he was speaking to. Vann talks about garment workers demonstrations that were happening at Yak Jin factory in Phnom Penh and along National Road 3.

Sophal said in court this showed that the CNRP’s protests, which were mostly concentrated at Freedom Park in central Phnom Penh, were linked to other garment worker demonstrations across the city. He added this was contradictory to Sokha’s assertion that his party was only responsible for protests at Freedom Park. 

The prosecutor said he would continue to submit new evidence during the examination period.

Sokha was not pleased with this statement and claimed the prosecution was mistreating him and needed to be more reasonable.

“If you want to mistreat me, make it a bit more reasonable than this. Which court has ever submitted evidence in the middle of a process like this … make it a little more appropriate,” he said. 

“If you are good at linking me to such charges, what about the third hand group with red armbands? Why don’t you say they are also Kem Sokha’s group?”

Sokha is referring to a group of people, wearing red armbands and armed with sticks, who were part of a large group of riot police that cracked down on CNRP supporters at Freedom Park in early January 2014. The group has been referred to as “third hand.”

Ang Udom, a defense lawyer, told reporters outside court that the inclusion of new evidence shows that the existing evidence in the case file was insufficient to push for a prosecution.

“It degrades and reduces the weight [of the evidence], meaning that the evidence is no longer credible in inculpating [the accused] … and we ask the court to drop the charge,” he said.

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