The Appeal Court yesterday overturned the conviction of a man found guilty of drug trafficking nearly a decade ago.
Presiding Judge Yun Narong said 37-year-old Yim Rithy was sentenced to prison in 2011, along with 39-year-old Okeke Ugochukwu Emmanuel and his colleagues 26-year-old Auxillo Math Eaiheressa Dayanan and 34-year-old Heng Mey.
Judge Narong said Mr Emmanuel and Ms Dayanan were convicted of drug trafficking, while Mr Rithy and Ms Mey were convicted of accomplices of drug trafficking.
Mr Rithy and Ms Mey received 25 years in prison each, while Mr Emmanuel and Ms Dayanan were given 27 years in prison each.
He noted that Mr Emmanuel and Ms Dayanan were both foreign nationals, while Mr Rithy and Ms Mey were Cambodians.
Mr Rithy then appealed to have his conviction overturned due to a lack of evidence during his trial.
His appeal case made it to the Supreme Court, but it was transferred back to the Appeal Court.
“Based on the trial and after Appeal Court judges council inspected relevant documents […], the Appeal Court found that [Mr Rithy] was not guilty,” he said. “Therefore, the Appeal Court has decided to overturn his conviction and order prison officials to immediately release [Mr Rithy] from prison, if he does not have other criminal cases in court.”
Judge Narong noted that the case began with the arrest of Ms Dayanan at Phnom Penh International Airport on March 21, 2011.
“Ms Dayanan was arrested at the airport after immigration police inspected her luggage and discovered drugs hidden inside the luggage,” Judge Narong said. “After the arrest, police seized a total of about three kilograms of methamphetamine from her.”
Judge Narong said that based on Ms Dayanan’s confessions, the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug police then arrested Mr Emmanuel, Ms Mey and Mr Rithy the following day.
At the Appeal Court yesterday, Mr Rithy expressed joy after the court overturned his conviction.
“I am thankful for the Appeal Court for finding truth and justice,” he said.
Ou Chanthy, Mr Rithy’s wife, told Khmer Times yesterday that her husband was innocent, and that he spent eight years in prison for something he did not do.
“This was justice for my husband,” Ms Chanthy said. “I am thankful and I would like to extend gratitude to the Appeal Court, the prosecutor and the judge’s council.”
“Thank you for finding truth and justice for my husband,” she added.
Colonel Sok Kosal, an officer with Prey Sar prison, yesterday confirmed that Mr Rithy was released in the afternoon.
He said Mr Rithy was returned to his family in Phnom Penh.