Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday postponed the trial for five human rights defenders charged with bribing a witness to September 18 after several witnesses failed to appear.
Adhoc staffers Nay Vanda, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Lim Mony and National Election Committee official Ny Chakrya were accused of bribing a witness in relation to an alleged affair between former opposition leader Kem Sokha and hairdresser Khom Chandaraty, an allegation Adhoc has denied.
Sam Sokong, Mr Chakrya’s lawyer, asked the court to delay the hearing because Ms Chandaraty was absent, and Mr Sokha and Ms Mony did not receive summons.
“I want to ask the court to postpone the trial because the three main witnesses are absent, especially Khom Chandaraty,” Mr Sokong said, noting that Ms Chandaraty was a crucial witness to the case.
“I notice the court failed to summon the most important witness,” he said.
Presiding Judge Duch Soksarin agreed to postpone the trial.
“The court decided to delay the hearing until September 18,” Judge Soksarin said.
Dubbed the Adhoc five, the accused were arrested in 2016 after they were questioned by the Anti-Corruption Unit over allegations they bribed Ms Chandaraty to deny the affair with Mr Sokha.
They were then released on bail under court supervision after being in pre-trial detention for more than one year.
On Sunday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying that the Cambodian authorities should drop the case.
“The Adhoc five case is emblematic of the absurd legal harassment that activists and human rights defenders face fighting for justice and human rights in Cambodia,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW.
Mr Soksan said yesterday all parties should attend the trial, especially the main witnesses.
“We don’t know who’s guilty,” Mr Soksan said. “The main witness did not come.”
Am Sam Ath, a monitor with rights group Licadho, said all relevant parties should be present.
“I think if the witnesses remain absent then the trial will not be comprehensive,” Mr Sam Ath said. “I hope the court will provide justice and summon all those that need to be questioned.”