After a whole day of questioning, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday charged Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) commune chief Seang Chet with bribing a witness after he allegedly gave $500 to the mother of Khom Chandaraty, also known as Srey Mom, and was detained in Prey Sar prison for further legal action.
Court spokesman Ly Sophana said the investigative judge decided to temporarily detain Mr. Chet for bribing a witness under Article 548 of the Penal Code and he could be sentenced from five to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
The charge is the latest development in the rapidly snowballing case of Ms. Chandaraty’s alleged affair with acting CNRP president Kem Sokha that came to light after a series of intimate and occasionally explicit phone conversations between the two were leaked online.
Mr. Chet, the CNRP commune chief of Kampong Cham province’s Kampong Seam district, was arrested by Ant-Corruption Unit (ACU) officials on April 24 after Ms. Chandaraty wrote an open letter, as part of a court complaint filed against Mr. Sokha last week.
She accused Mr. Chet, the United Nation’s local human rights office, rights group Adhoc and women’s rights group Silaka of convincing her to lie to the court and say it was not her voice in the recordings, before she turned around and claimed it was.
Mr. Chet said he was the one who received the $500 and was the one who gave the money to Ms. Chandaraty’s mother as instructed by his superiors to do so, but he did not name his superiors. He also talked about the possibility of letting Ms. Chandaraty and her family live abroad despite her objection.
However Mr. Chet’s wife, Sreng Sokhoeun, said her husband received the $500 from opposition lawmaker Mao Mony Vann as aid money to help the family leave the country, but the offer had been rejected.
She pleaded with the court to release her husband.
“Please, any organization, please intervene in this case and help release my husband…the money has already been given back to the owner,” she said.
“Mr. Mao Mony Vann was the one who gave it to us. He said it was provided by donors and we already returned it. How could the ACU arrest my husband because of this?” she asked.
Mr. Mony Vann could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mr. Chet’s defense lawyer, Sam Sokong, said the charge was not appropriate in this case, adding that the court should have considered the bail request by his client who is a public official who has been faithful in his duties to his people.
“I do not think that the charge of bribing a witness is right, unless Ms. Chandaraty was a witness in this case, but she is not. She is now a plaintiff against Mr. Kem Sokha and she even asked for compensation,” Mr. Sokong said.
Mr. Sokong added that Mr. Chet had asked for temporary bail with a deposit of five million riel (about $1,200), but the court did not consider his request.
“I still think the allegation is not consistent with the facts, and it was just an accusation just to put the blame on him. He is not qualified to be charged,” he said.
The ACU yesterday summoned Ms. Chandaraty’s lawyer Try Chhoun, the right’s group head of the monitoring Yi Soksan as well as its deputy head of the investigation Nay Vanda.
Ny Chakrya, a former Adhoc official who is now the deputy general secretary of the National Electoral Committee, will be summoned today.
Ny Sokha (R), head of human rights group Adhoc, and Try Chhoun, a lawyer, await questioning at the ACU head office. KT/ Mai Vireak