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RFA reporters’ detention could be extended

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times Share:
The two reporters were jailed last year on charges of espionage. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday held a closed door hearing for two former Radio Free Asia journalists regarding the possibility that their detention could be extended due to investigators needing more time.

Y Rin, court spokesman, said yesterday morning that Pech Vicheathor, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge, ordered two former Radio Free Asia journalists, Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, to come to court for a hearing on whether or not the court is going to extend their detention while both men await trial.

“The investigative judge will announce the decision on Friday,” he said.

Judge Vicheathor could not be reached for a comment.

Keo Vanny, defence lawyer for Mr Chhin and Mr Sothearin, said that the court has held his clients for more than six months and has yet to produce any evidence implicating the former journalists.

“If the court continues to extend the detention of my clients then that’s a violation of their rights,” he said. “It’s a waste of time and it prevents them from feeding their families.”

The request to extend their detention and increase the duration of the investigation came from deputy court prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth, according to Mr Vanny. Mr Bunvisoth declined to comment.

The two former RFA journalists were arrested last year over suspicion of espionage and are currently being detained at Prey Sar prison pending trial. In March, the court also charged them with the production of pornography.

Human Rights Watch on Sunday said that the charges were trumped up and that Mr Chhin and Mr Sothearin should immediately be released.

The group said that their arrests were part of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ongoing crackdown on the media, civil society groups and the political opposition.

Last month, the Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision to continue the pair’s detention over allegations of sending intelligence reports to the US. Both men appealed against their detention on grounds that the procedure by the judicial police was wrongly conducted.

On Monday, wives of the two former RFA journalists called on the country’s judicial system and the international community to ‘help win their husbands’ release’. They said that the men had done nothing wrong.

“Please help my husband because he just opened a small business in order to feed his family,” said Heng Sina, wife of Mr Chhin. “He does not get involved in politics.”

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