Still No Date for Resuming Kem Sokha Trial After Five Months: Lawyer

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Opposition leader Kem Sokha leaves the Phnom Pen Muncipal Court on February 27, 2020 (Ouch Sony/VOD)

Seeking a “quick and fair” trial, a lawyer for opposition leader Kem Sokha said the ongoing suspension of his client’s court proceedings could impact his rights.

Sokha’s trial, which began early this year — some 28 months after his arrest — was suspended in March due to concerns over potential Covid-19 transmission. More than five months later, attorney Chan Chen said that a June request to resume the trial had been rejected and there was no further communication from the court about when it may resume.

“Delaying [the trial] for a long time affects our interests, meaning the rights of my client,” Chen said. Sokha should be given “a quick and fair trial under national and international laws.”

Chen said Sokha and the legal team would discuss filing another request to restart the trial.

Sokha, president of the banned main opposition CNRP, was arrested on September 3, 2017 for allegedly conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow the government, a charge he denies. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

On Wednesday, on the eve of the three-year anniversary of his arrest, he released a statement once again calling for his charges to be dropped.

He claimed not enough evidence had been presented to support the charge against him, and asked that his full freedoms be restored “in the spirit of national reconciliation and unity.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Y Rin denied any wrongdoing on the part of the court in continuing to delay the case, noting that Chen had requested the initial suspension.

Asked when the trial might resume, Rin deferred. “Let me meet with the judge to ask about the date and inform you later.”Sokha was jailed for a year before being released to de facto house arrest at his Phnom Penh home. In November, he was freed from those restrictions, but is still prohibited from conducting political activities and leaving the country.

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