The Appeal Court yesterday heard the plea of a man who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2011 after he was found guilty of trafficking nearly three kilograms of methamphetamine in Phnom Penh.
Judge Yun Narong said four people were involved in the crime. They were Okeke Ugochukwu Emmanuel, 39; Auxillo Math Eaiheressa Dayanan, 26; Yim Rithy, 37; and Heng Mey, 34.
He noted that Mr Emmanuel and Ms Dayanan were both foreign nationals, while Mr Rithy and Ms Mey were Cambodians.
Judge Narong said Mr Emmanuel and Ms Dayanan were convicted of drug trafficking, adding that Mr Rithy and Ms Mey were convicted of accomplices of drug trafficking.
He said that Ms Dayanan was arrested in March, 2011 by immigration police at Phnom Penh International Airport.
“[Ms Dayanan] was arrested at the airport after immigration police inspected her and found drugs inside her luggage,” Judge Narong said. “After the arrest, police seized a total of 2,969 grams [about three kilograms] of methamphetamine from her.”
He said during questioning Ms Dayanan told police that she worked with Mr Emmanuel, Ms Mey and Mr Rithy.
Her answers prompted police to nab the three at three different locations in Phnom Penh on March 22.
According to Judge Narong, no drugs were seized from them during the arrests.
He noted that in December, 2011, Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted all four. Mr Emmanuel and Ms Dayanan received 27 years in prison each and were ordered to pay about $17,000 each to be put in the state’s coffers.
Mr Rithy and Ms Mey were sentenced to 25 years in prison each and were ordered to pay the same amount as Mr Emmanuel and Ms Dayanan.
In March 2015, the four made an appeal against the verdict at the Appeal Court, but the court upheld the municipal court decision. Judge Narong said the Supreme Court then upheld the Appeal Court ruling.
However, he said that Mr Rithy’s request for a retrial due to a lack of evidence was sent to the Appeal Court for deliberation.
During his hearing yesterday, Mr Rithy said the municipal court had made a mistake in convicting and sentencing him to 25 years in prison because the court failed to conduct sufficient investigation.
He said that before he was arrested, he was a personal assistant of Mr Emmanuel, who was the owner of a retail shop in Chamkar Mon district.
Mr Rithy noted that he and the two others did not know that Mr Emmanuel was a drug dealer.
He said that on the day of his arrest, he received a call from Mr Emmanuel to bring the keys to the shop. However, upon arrival, he said he was arrested by immigration police.
Mr Rithy said police accused him of being a trafficker, and that he has spent eight years in Prey Sar prison because of the accusation.
“It’s injustice,” Mr Rithy said. “I did not know anything, nor was I related, but police arrested me and I was accused of being a drug trafficker. The court sentenced me to 25 years in prison.”
“I was not a drug trafficker – I was innocent,” Mr Rithy said. “I would like to ask the Appeal Court to exonerate me and release me from prison so that I may return to my family.”
An Appeal Court ruling on the case is to be announced on July 4.