Phnom Penh Municipal Court has issued a warrant to temporarily seize property of former opposition CNRP leader Sam Rainsy over compensation he owes through defamation lawsuits with Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.
The temporary confiscation came after Mr Raisnsy, who lives in exile, lost two court cases lodged against him by the premier and the National Assembly president last year and in 2016.
In July 2017, the municipal court convicted Mr Rainsy of defaming Mr Samrin over a video Mr Rainsy posted on Facebook on November 17, 2015.
Under a video clip of a speech by former King Norodom Sihanouk in the early 1980s was the sentence: “We remember that the regime born on 7 January 1979 used their tribunal to sentence our late King Norodom Sihanouk to death by accusing him of being a traitor.”
The court ordered Mr Rainsy to pay compensation of about $37,500 to Mr Samrin.
Also in July 2017, the municipal court found Mr Rainsy guilty of defaming Mr Hun Sen by claiming he had bribed former CNRP activist Thy Sovantha to defect to the ruling CPP and attack the CNRP. Mr Rainsy was ordered to pay a fine of $1 million to the premier in that case.
The court warrant issued yesterday by judge Ros Piseth said he decided to have Mr Rainsy’s property temporarily confiscated in order to protect the interest of plaintiffs and to guarantee the effective implementation of the laws.
“We decided to temporarily confiscate Sam Rainsy’s property [his land and building] which is located in Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Loeu commune in Phnom Penh pending the court’s final decision,” judge Piseth said in the warrant.
The decision was made after Ky Tech, a lawyer representing Mr Hun Sen and Mr Heng Samrin, asked the court on Friday to issue an injunction.
“This is just a preventive measure, in case the loser does not pay his compensation,” Mr Tech said.
He added when Mr Rainsy paid the compensation, the court would invalidate the seizure warrant.
Judge Piseth said in the warrant that to reclaim the seized property, Mr Rainsy was obliged to deposit $1 million at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Sam Sokong, defence lawyer for Mr Rainsy, said he was disappointed in the decision to seize the former CNRP headquarters because the defamation cases are going to be appealed.
“We cannot accept it because it is not necessary to issue the warrant to seize his property while the cases have not gone through the appeal process fully yet,” he said.
Mr Sokong said he was preparing documents to appeal the seizure warrant and would file the documents today.
Mr Rainsy did not respond to emails for comment yesterday.