The Supreme Court yesterday upheld two lower court decisions 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.
After a hearing that lasted about one hour, the Supreme Court shot down a request from Mr Sokha’s lawyers to nullify the verdict issued by the Appeal Court in March that upheld the municipal court’s decision to extend Mr Sokha’s detention.
Khim Ponn, presiding judge at the Supreme Court, said the Appeal Court was correct to uphold the Phnom Penh Municipal Court decision.
“The Supreme Court decides to uphold the verdict of the Court of Appeal from March 27,” he said.
On March 5, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Ky Rithy and deputy 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.
Ouk Kimseth, deputy general prosecutor, said during the Supreme Court hearing that the former opposition leader should remain behind bars pending his trial because his charges affect national security.
“It is treason,” he said. “These charges seriously impact national security.”
Pheng Heng, one of Mr Sokha’s defence lawyers, said outside the court after the ruling that he was very disappointed.
“We are not satisfied with this decision because the court did not consider basic rights of freedom,” Mr Heng said.
For an adult involved in a felony, provisional detention may not exceed six months; however, when this period ends, an 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 over comments he made in 2013 video footage from Australia-based CBN news, which showed him saying that the US government had been helping him to push for a regime change in Cambodia since 1993.
The CNRP was then dissolved by the Supreme Court in November and 118 senior party members were barred from politic for five years.
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling CPP, said he agreed with the verdict issued by the Supreme Court.
“It is at the discretion of the judges and they were correct because his charges are felonies that impact national security,” Mr Eysan said.
Meanwhile, Mr Sokha’s lawyers are attempting to gain permission from the municipal court to allow their client to receive medical treatment overseas.
Lawyers representing Mr Sokha have filed a request to the court asking that it allow him to receive medical treatment in Singapore.