Sokha Trial Meanders as Judges Query Him About Contested 2013 Election

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Opposition leader Kem Sokha leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in his vehicle on February 12, 2020. (Ouch Sony/VOD)
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A judge continued to question Kem Sokha over procedures and result of the 2013 national election, as the treason trial completed the 38th hearing in the protracted criminal case.

Sokha, former president of the dissolved CNRP, has been accused of treason and conspiring with foreign powers to overthrow the government, in a case that spans 25 years, starting from his first stint as a parliamentarian in 1993 till his arrest in September 2017. The prosecution has alleged that events during this time period are evidence of the charges, with the defense arguing that trial is being unnecessarily prolonged.

On Wednesday, Sokha was questioned by the panel of judges about events leading up to the 2013 election and the CNRP’s allegations of irregularities just after the vote. Judge Seng Leang questioned Sokha about his experience at a polling station in Kandal province during the election, only for the former CNRP president to correct him that he voted in Kampong Cham in 2013.

Leang then cited Sokha’s time as the president of the Human Rights Party, and his tenure as head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, to ask if he had an understanding of election regulations and procedures.

Sokha said that he was a senior politician and the party had a technical team to look into these issues. So while he had read the procedures at the time, he did not remember all aspects of the regulations.

The judge also asked about complaints raised by the opposition after the election, specifically with two forms that recorded election results. Sokha said he knew about this but did not remember now.

As the judges continued to question him about election procedures, Sokha asked to play an hourlong video of him speaking to party supporters in Australia — first used by the government to allege charges of treason — to answer all their questions. But the judge refused and played only a short section where Sokha says that even the CPP knew who the loser of the election was.

Sokha then refused to answer questions after that because he said the short clip was played out of context.

Defense lawyer Chan Chen said the questioning was so focused on election procedures and there was no mention of how this related to the charges of conspiring with foreign powers.

“We have seen that some questions raised with my client are outside of the facts [of the case],” he told reporters outside the court.

As the hearing ended, government lawyers and the defense team were unable to agree on a date for the next hearing, with presiding judge Koy Sao asking them to submit acceptable dates separately.

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