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Former RFA reporters denied bail again

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
The former reporters leave the court. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Court of Appeal yesterday denied bail again to two former Radio Free Asia journalists who remain jailed on espionage charges for allegedly sending reports to the United States.

Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith said Presiding Judge Suos Sam Ath decided to uphold the decision of Phnom Penh Municipal Court to continue the pair’s detention.

“The judge decided to uphold the Phnom Penh court’s decision because it will affect the investigation if they are released on bail,” he said.

Mr Tharith added the municipal court was processing their case, which will go to trial when the court finishes its investigation.

Judge Sam Ath could not be reached for comment yesterday. The two reporters, Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, were arrested in Phnom Penh’s Marady Hotel on November 14 and accused of espionage.

On March 29, Phnom Penh Municipal Court also charged them with producing pornography.

“It is an injustice that they intend to mistreat us,” Mr Sothearin said after he left the courtroom. “It is revenge by the government because we dared to directly criticise the government about the situation in Cambodia.”

The men worked for RFA’s Khmer-language service until the US-funded media outlet shut its Phnom Penh bureau on September 12 last year, citing government repression and the forced closure of its FM radio broadcasts.

The two reporters have been charged under Article 445 of the Criminal Code which covers providing information to foreign states or agents which can “undermine national defence”.

If convicted, they face prison sentences of between seven and 15 years. No trial date has been set.

Keo Vanny, the pair’s defence lawyer, said he would discuss with his clients about appealing to the Supreme Court by next week.

“He [Judge Sam Ath] is worried that they will flee,” he said.

Mr Vanny said the court should release them on bail because they have agreed to follow court procedures, they have real addresses in Phnom Penh, and they have agreed to hand over their passports.

“It affects their freedom when the court continues to detain them,” he said.

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