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Trial of former RFA journalists accused of espionage begins

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin appear on Khmer Times’ Cross Talk programme following their release on bail. KT/Tep Sony

The trial of two former Radio Free Asia journalists accused of sending intelligence reports to the United States is set to commence today.

Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin were arrested in November 2017 and were charged with espionage, an allegation denied by both men.

Mr Chhin was also charged for allegedly producing pornographic materials, after he was arrested.

The pair were placed in pre-trial detention, but were later granted bail and placed under court supervision in August last year after spending about nine months in prison.

Sam Chamroeun, their defence attorney, yesterday said he will present evidence to prove the innocence of his clients.

“I will try my best to defend them and provide strong evidence for the judges to consider because I have enough reasons and supporting ideas,” Mr Chamroeun said. “Some of the evidence and documents are already filed at the court.”

Mr Chhin and Mr Sothearin yesterday said they are ready to attend the trial.

“I wish we will receive justice and be able to find a proper job without being discriminated against,” Mr Chhin said. “I hope the court will drop the charges against us.”

Mr Chhin said their families are facing financial difficulties and they had to move in with relatives because they could not afford to pay rent.

Mr Chhin and Mr Sothearing worked for RFA’s Khmer-language service until the US-funded media outlet shut its Phnom Penh bureau on September 12, 2017, citing government repression and the forced closure of its FM radio broadcasts.

Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, yesterday said he will observe the trial.

Mr Sen Karuna said the case is politically motivated because they were arrested during the height of the closure of several media outlets before the 2018 election.

“The government and the court have never provided evidence or what both men had done to undermine national defence. It’s unclear,” he said. “I hope the court will release them because they were journalists.”

Mr Sen Karuna said the court should drop the charges in order to restore democracy and press freedom.

Min Pov, a veteran journalist, yesterday said he will attend the trial in order to observe arguments from both sides, adding that the charges against the two are of concern to Cambodian journalists.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called on the authorities to drop the charges.

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