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Appeal Court upholds Kem Sokha’s detention

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times Share:
Former opposition leader Kem Sokha. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Court of Appeal yesterday decided to uphold the municipal court’s decision to extend the detention of former opposition CNRP president Kem Sokha for another six months on treason charges over conspiring with a foreign power to topple the government.

Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith confirmed that the court upheld the municipal court’s decision to extend the pre-trial detention of Mr Sokha, who did not attend the hearing yesterday.

A CNRP supporter is wrangled by Daun Penh security guards outside the court yesterday as it heard an appeal over Kem Sokha’s extended detention on treason charges. KT/Mai Vireak

“The reason is because the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision was correct and the detention has not exceeded the limit,” said Mr Tharith.

Meng Sopheary, one of five lawyers for Mr Sokha, said yesterday that the Appeal Court decided to continue Mr Sokha’s detention for the same reason the municipal court had, without explaining the reason in detail.

“It is an injustice for him that the court did not grant him bail,” she said, adding that she and the other lawyers raised many objections.

The police barricades along Sothearos Boulevard near the Supreme Court. KT/Mai Vireak

“His Excellency Kem Sokha is not thinking of escaping from Cambodia,” added Ms Sopheary, saying the court could withdraw his passport if it did not believe him.

“I still hope that he will be bailed because it is a political issue,” she said. “I hope there will be a resolution any day now.”

On March 5, Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating Judge Ky Rithy and prosecutor Sieng Sok questioned Mr Sokha at Trapraing Thlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to determine whether his six-month detention should be extended.

According to court spokesman Ly Sophanna, Judge Rithy decided to extend the provisional detention of Mr Sokha so further investigations could be carried out on his case.

“The accused person was placed under provisional detention and it has been extended by six more months,” Mr Sophanna said.

Opposition supporters engage with Daun Penh security guards yesterday. KT/Mai Vireak

Article 208 of the Procedure of the Criminal Code states that for an adult involved in a felony, provisional detention may not exceed six months; however, when this period ends, the investigating judge may extend the detention for another six months with a proper and express statement of reasons.

Mr Sokha was arrested on September 3 after video footage from Australia-based CBN news was posted to Facebook, showing Mr Sokha saying that the US government had been helping him to push for regime change in Cambodia since 1993.

The CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November and 118 senior party members were barred from politics for five years.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said during a graduation ceremony at the Institute of Education in Phnom Penh before the Appeal Court announced its verdict that he did not believe the court would release Mr Sokha.

“I don’t believe that the Appeal Court will release the treasonous leader this morning but I respect the decision of the court if the court releases him on bail,” he said. “However, I don’t believe the Appeal Court will release the treasonous leader because it was an act of treason.”

Mr Hun Sen added that he had ordered the arrest of Mr Sokha and if he had not done so, no one would have dared to arrest the former opposition leader.

Yesterday morning, outside police barricades along Sothearos Boulevard near the gate of the Supreme Court, more than 100 opposition supporters waited for the Appeal Court’s decision.

However, Daun Penh district security guards did not allow them to gather and separated the group.

At around 10am, a man emerged from a nearby coffee shop and drew 0+0=8 on the road in large symbols with a piece of brick, with the 8 representing handcuffs.

Daun Penh district security chief Kim Vutha and more than ten of his officials surrounded him, with Mr Vutha ordering him to erase his drawing.

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