Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried four human rights defenders and a National Election Committee official charged with bribing a witness linked to an alleged affair committed by former opposition leader Kem Sokha.
Adhoc staffers Nay Vanda, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Lim Mony and National Election Committee official Ny Chakrya were accused of bribing Khom Chandaraty in relation to an affair with Mr Sokha.
The Adhoc five were arrested in 2016 after they were questioned by the Anti-Corruption Unit over allegations that they instructed and bribed Ms Chandaraty to deny allegations of an affair with Mr Sokha.
They were then released on bail under court supervision after being in pre-trial detention for more than one year.
During the trial yesterday, all five denied the charges, noting that there were no witnesses to support the claim.
Mr Sokha, head of investigations with rights group Adhoc, denied paying a bribe of $204 to Ms Chandaraty to have her deny the affair.
“Adhoc provides assistance to victims to help them find real justice,” he said. “We help poor people accused of crimes who do not have the ability to fight on their own.”
Mr Sokha said Ms Chandaraty was summoned by the Interior Ministry over the affair as a suspect and came to Adhoc seeking help, which was provided as it would be to any other victim.
“Where is the bribery? Who is a witness?” Mr Sokha asked. “She was never a witness. I ask the court to drop the charge against me.”
Mr Chakrya also rejected the charge.
“They have accused me as an accomplice to bribing a witness but until now, I can’t find who is the witness,” Mr Chakrya said.
Ms Chandaraty was not present for the hearing, but a judge read answers she provided to authorities.
In her answers, she said that Adhoc instructed her to twist the truth and say that she never had an affair with Mr Sokha, promising to find her asylum abroad.
Ms Mony responded to the comments by saying that they were all lies.
“Adhoc has never intervened to help somebody to live abroad,” she said. “What she said was a lie.”
Deputy prosecutor Seng Heang said the charges must be upheld.
“We have seen that the affair was true,” he said. “But Adhoc officials made a fake story.”
“They bribed a witness,” he added.
A verdict is due September 26.