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Appeal Court hears guards’ testimony

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
The Appeal Court will wrap up the trial today. KT/Mai Vireak

The Court of Appeal yesterday finished hearing the testimony of security guards who clashed with opposition party protesters during a rally to demand access to Freedom Park following the disputed 2013 election.

Meach Sovannara, former information department head of the now-dissolved CNRP, and ten activists were found guilty of leading and participating in an insurrection after a violent clash between party supporters and Daun Penh district security guards at Freedom Park on July 15, 2014.

Mr Sovannara was charged and convicted of incitement in July 2015. The Cambodian-US citizen was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced the ten others to between seven and 20 years imprisonment.

Only five of 39 plaintiffs testified directly at the Court of Appeal, while the rest did not attend the trial.

The court also played video clips from the clash which showed security guards removing a banner demanding the opening of Freedom Park, and then security forces beating up dispersing protesters.

“They were ready to provoke the problem,” Meach Sovannara said while watching a video clip showing security guards with wooden sticks used to fight the protesters.

“I did not lead an insurrection,” he added.

Defence lawyer Sam Sokong yesterday morning questioned two security guards who said they did not know who beat them up during the confrontation near Freedom Park.

“I did not file a complaint against any individual person but I sued the group of people who beat me,” said Meas Phoeun, 61, a security guard employed to manage traffic.

Mr Phoeun contradicted an answer he gave at Phnom Penh Municipal Court during the trial when he said he filed complaints against five lawmakers, including Mu Sochua, Real Camerin, Ho Vann, Keo Phirum and Me Thavrin.

“I deny suing the person who beat me,” Mr Phoeun said, adding at that time he was busy facilitating a traffic jam and wasn’t focused on the protesters at Freedom Park.

Another plaintiff, Norb Phalla, 54, echoed Mr Phoeun, saying he didn’t know who beat him but recognised Mu Sochua as having led the demonstration.

“I know Mu Sochua and Meach Sovannara led the demonstration,” Mr Phalla said. “So I sued them and the people who beat me.”

The violence near Freedom Park resulted in injuries to 39 security guards and ten protesters. Five security guards were seriously injured.

Ly Chantola, a lawyer representing the 39 plaintiffs, said that according to the video clips presented in court, there was real evidence the protesters had planned to attack the security guards.

“There is real evidence those protesters gathered to beat the security guards because we heard them yell to beat anyone wearing blue clothes,” Mr Chantola said, referring to the uniform of security guards.

Chuong Choungy, another defence lawyer, admitted there was violence at the demonstration but said security guards beat the protesters first. “We saw security guards had prepared three packages of sticks to beat protesters who only held plastic flags,” Mr Choungy said.

Presiding Judge Plang Samnang said the court would wrap up the hearing today and decide whether to exonerate the prisoners or uphold their convictions.

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