Sokha Tells Court to Ask the US About His Intentions

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Kem Sokha speaks to reporters at his house in Phnom Penh on January 22, 2020. (Sanh Bun Hoeun/VOD)

Banned opposition party leader Kem Sokha urged the court to question U.S. officials if the presiding judge doesn’t believe his stated relationship with foreign states.

On the fourth day of his trial, Sokha repeated his explanation of a 2013 speech that has been put forward by the prosecution as showing that the politician conspired with the U.S. to overthrow the government. After government lawyers probed the former opposition party leader’s connections to the U.S., Sokha told them to summon a new source.

“If [you] don’t believe me, please call and question the U.S.,” he said, and turned to U.S. officials observing the trial in the courtroom and directed his arm toward them.

Prosecutors probed Sokha over the funding of Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) during his founding and presidency of the organization, as well as his association with U.S.-based nonprofit International Republican Institute (IRI).

Government lawyer Ly Chantola also asked Sokha if he had studied in the U.S. Sokha responded that he had visited the country for professional development, noting that government officials, including Interior Minister Sar Kheng, had also traveled to the U.S. for the same purpose.

“U.S. professors did not teach me to have a coup d’etat, did not teach me about color revolution,” Sokha said. “They taught me about human rights and democracy.”

More than 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. Charged with conspiracy with a foreign power, Sokha faces up to 30 years in jail if found guilty.

On January 15, government lawyer Ky Tech told reporters that the countries involved in the case were Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Australia, the U.S., Canada, Taiwan and India, as well as the E.U.

Asked whether government lawyers have plans to summon U.S. officials for questioning, Tech told reporters on Thursday that he could not reveal their strategy at this time.

Court spokesman Y Rin said the presiding judge has the final decision over what parties are summoned to the court.

Contacted by phone on Thursday, defense lawyer Chan Chen said previously, defense lawyers had asked the investigating judge to summon the foreign powers that the government claims are conspiring with Sokha. He added that he would discuss with his team whether they would request foreign representatives to testify. 

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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