The Appeal Court yesterday denied bail to former CNRP leader Kem Sokha for the second time, leaving him jailed on treason charges for allegedly conspiring with the US to topple the government.
After a closed-door hearing, for which Mr Sokha was absent, Presiding Judge Sous Sam Ath denied bail to Mr Sokha on the grounds that the case is still under investigation and he could cause trouble if released.
Court spokesman Touch Tharith said he was unaware why Mr Sokha was not brought to the court for the hearing.
Meng Sopheary, one of Mr Sokha’s four defence lawyers who attended the hearing, decried the verdict, saying that Mr Sokha should have been released on bail.
“I think it is very unjust for him because he guarantees everything and he fulfils all requirements according to all the court procedures,” Ms Sopheary said.
Mr Sokha was arrested on treason charges last year over comments made in 2013 video footage from Australia-based CBN news, which showed him saying the US government had been helping him to push for regime change in Cambodia since 1993.
The CNRP was then dissolved by the Supreme Court in November and its 118 senior members were barred from politics for five years.
Ms Sopheary added that the court did not believe Mr Sokha would remain in the country if released on bail.
“If the court does not believe in him, it can deploy security forces in front of his house and if the court is concerned that he will flee, it can withdraw his passport,” Ms Sopheary said. “He does not have any intention to flee.”
She said that Mr Sokha wanted to come to yesterday’s hearing, but Tboung Khmum provincial prison officials failed to bring him to the court.
Major General Sorn Keo, spokesman for Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons, declined to comment and referred questions to director of Trapaing Thlong Prison, Major General Phin Yan, who also refused to comment.
On March 9, the Supreme Court rejected Mr Sokha’s request for bail after the Court of Appeal in February upheld an earlier Phnom Penh Municipal Court decision; the bail request was then returned to the municipal court for a second round.
Meanwhile, the municipal court yesterday questioned one of eight summoned witnesses in the treason case, former human rights worker Kry Song.
“This morning, the investigating judge questioned one witness, Kry Song,” said court spokesman Suos Vithyearandy.
Investigating Judge Ky Rithy last month summoned eight witnesses to appear for questioning in the case, starting yesterday and going until June 15.
Those summoned include Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, Pa Nguon Teang, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, and Sia Phearum, executive director of the Housing Rights Task Force.