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Court hears former RFA reporters’ case

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
The duo speak to reporters outside of the courthouse yesterday. KT/Pry Nehru

The Court of Appeal yesterday heard a case of two former Radio Free Asia reporters over a reinvestigation order ruled by the lower court in October.

Sam Chamroeun, a lawyer for Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, said that the Appeal Court heard a porn production charge after his clients appealed against the decision to reinvestigate by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

On October 3, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruled that the espionage and porn production cases against the pair had to be re-investigated after hearings in July and August.

Mr Chamroeun said that the Appeal Court’s presiding judge Plang Samnang will consider whether or not the appeal was filed following the law.

“The presiding judge asked me about the procedure whether the reinvestigation decision has completed its procedure,” Mr Chamroeun said. “Phnom Penh municipal court’s decision has affected my clients’ interests, especially in providing justice to them,” he said.

Chhin and Sothearin were arrested in November 2017 and charged with “illegally providing information to a foreign state” under Article 445 of the Criminal Code, an allegation both denied.

The pair were also charged for allegedly producing pornographic materials after their arrests.

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

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.

Speaking to reporters after leaving the courthouse yesterday, Sothearin said that he is not involved in producing pornography.

“The court charged me with [producing pornography] so I think they are trying to find a mistake and put blame on us,” he said.

“I am innocent and if the court has found us guilty they would have announced the verdict on October 3. They would not order for reinvestigation,” Sothearin said.

Chhin also denied that he produced porn.

“We expect that the Court of Appeal will rule out the reinvestigation decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court,” he said.

Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that the court should drop charges against the pair.

“We have seen these cases there is not enough evidence to inculpate them,” she said. “We hope the court will follow a principle of justice and they should have a fair trial.”

Judge Samnang will announce the verdict on December 30.

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