The Court of Appeal yesterday denied bail for former monk Horn Sophanny, who was charged with illegal weapons possession and incitement to commit crime after posting a photo of himself brandishing a toy rifle on Facebook.
Court spokesman Touch Tharith said the court upheld the Battambang provincial court’s decision, continuing Mr Sophanny’s pre-trial detention as investigations into his alleged offences continue.
“If the court granted him bail, it could affect the investigation process,” he said. “The appeal court decided to uphold the Battambang provincial court’s verdict.”
Mr Sophanny’s charges stem back to April 9, when five armed men shot dead Venerable Sum Sitha, 44, the chief of Roleak Kandorl pagoda in Kratie province’s Chhlong district.
Five days later, Mr Sophanny posted the photograph on his Facebook page, saying: “If the killers dare to come to my pagoda, I will use this machine gun to kill them!”
Choung Choungy, Mr Sophanny’s lawyer, said he will seek bail for his client all the way to the Supreme Court.
“I will appeal this decision soon,” Mr Choungy said. “I think that this decision is very unjust for Mr Horn Sophanny and it also shows that our judiciary system is not good because holding a plastic gun, there’s no law that bans that.”
“I am disappointed with the court’s decision,” Mr Choungy added. “The person who charged Mr Horn Sophanny is wrong.”
Venerable Nop Vanny, a member of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice who is monitoring the case, said the courts are blocking Mr Sophanny’s freedom in what may be a politically motivated case.
Venerable Nop Vanny said Mr Sophanny observed the June 4 commune election in O’Char commune in Battambang city. “I think that this case may be politically motivated because the government does not want monks to observe the national election in 2018,” said Venerable Nop Vanny.