After days of questioning, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged four Adhoc officials yesterday for allegedly bribing a witness, while a National Electoral Committee (NEC) and UN official were charged with conspiring to bribe a witness in relation to the Kem Sokha sex scandal.
The four senior Adhoc officials, Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony, were charged under Article 548 of the Penal Code and sent to CC1 and CC2 prisons in Phnom Penh.
In addition, former Adhoc staffer Ny Chakrya, who was recently appointed as deputy secretary-general of the NEC, and UN staffer Soen Sally, who refused the courts summons, were charged with being accomplices to bribing a witness. Mr. Chakrya was sent to the Police Judiciare prison.
If convicted, all six could face between five and 10 years in prison.
Court spokesman Ly Sophana told Khmer Times that the decision to charge and detain the five accused separately was made by investigating judge Theam Chanpiseth at the request of deputy prosecutor Kuch Kim Long.
“It’s at the judge’s discretion to detain Adhoc staff and the NEC official separately,” he said.
Mr. Sophana refused to explain the details of the charges, claiming the case was still in the investigative process.
A shattered Kea Sophal, the defense lawyer for the four Adhoc officials, was left speechless after the charges were made and could not be reached for comment.
The charges continue the ongoing sex scandal case between acting president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party Kem Sokha and his alleged mistress Khom Chandaraty, whose open letter accusing the NGO officials of convincing her to lie in court about the alleged affair led to their arrests and imprisonment by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) last week.
Sam Sokong, a defense lawyer for Mr. Chakrya, said yesterday there was no evidence linking his client to the case. Mr. Chakrya was being deliberately separated from the rest of Adhoc’s staff, he said.
“I do not fully understood the allegations of the prosecutors. I think they should have brought more evidence or suspicion, but there was none. I think the reason why Chakrya is being detained separately was to disconnect him from the other alleged Adhoc officials,” he said.
Mr. Sokong said the group’s lawyers are considering if they will be able to apply for bail.
In defense of its staff, last week Adhoc showed film and supporting documents as evidence of their innocence. The video shows Ms. Chandaraty, who approached the group when she was being investigated by ACU officials, vehemently denying her affair with Mr. Sokha and asking for Adhoc’s assistance in covering transportation, food and housing costs when travelling to and from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The group gave her $204.
Licadho director Naly Pilorge expressed concern over the case, as the six human rights officers have been charged for unspecific reasons. She said the court’s decision is clearly a statement of dominance by the government, threatening NGO workers with impunity.
“The charges brought against the six human rights defenders are blatantly politically motivated and are a direct attack against those serving people who fall prey to Cambodia’s government,” she said.
“These mounting attacks represent an alarming tightening of the noose around civil society and those who work to uphold human rights, and clearly shows that the government’s ultimate aim is total control ahead of the upcoming elections.”
A joint statement by nearly 60 human rights and other civil society groups slammed the charges, demanding the six officials be released on bail in order to reaffirm the fundamental freedoms of human rights officials to conduct their activities free from government retaliation.
“The case is a farcical use of both the criminal justice system and state institutions as tools to intimidate, criminalize and punish the legitimate activities of human rights defenders and civil society,” the statement said.
Ny Sokha, a former Adhoc member, sits in a car as he is transported to prison following his hearing. KT/Mai Vireak