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Court rejects Smith’s request to meet Sokha

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
UN rights envoy Rhona Smith. KT/Tep Sony

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said the municipal court has rejected a request by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to meet with former opposition leader Kem Sokha.

Rhona Smith, the UN’s Special Rapporteur, is scheduled to arrive in the Kingdom today for an 11-day visit to follow up on the human rights situation in the country.

Mr Malin said Ms Smith’s request to meet Mr Sokha was rejected by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. He said Judge Ky Rithy, who is in charge of Mr Sokha’s case, denied the request due to an ongoing investigation.

“She has the right to make the request, but granting it depends on our Cambodian laws,” Mr Malin said. “Her request was rejected because the law gives the power of discretion to the judge.”

“This case is under investigation and has yet to conclude,” he added. “It means that the judge understands that it will affect the investigation.”

Mr Sokha was arrested in September 2017 and charged with conspiring with a foreign power, stipulated by Article 44 of the Criminal Code. He could face 15 to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

He was released on bail in September 2018, but was given limited freedom as the court restricted his movement to a four-block radius around his Phnom Penh home and banned him from meeting any ex-CNRP officials or individuals seemingly linked to his case.

Mr Malin said Mr Sokha needs to comply with the court’s orders.

“She can’t meet him unless she has permission from the judge,” he said. “It will affect the evidence and witnesses.”

“His decision was made based on legal procedures and existing laws,” Mr Malin added.

It is not the first time the court rejected Ms Smith’s request. In October, Judge Rithy also rejected her request to meet Mr Sokha.

On her last visit to Cambodia in November, Ms Smith called on the court to drop the treason charges against Mr Sokha or speed up his case, and lift his restrictive bail conditions.

According to her schedule, Ms Smith plans to meet senior government leaders, representatives of civil society and members of the diplomatic community.

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