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PM to consider the release of rights officials

May Titthara / Khmer Times Share:
Some of the rights group who have been held in prison. KT/Mai Vireak

Prime Minister Hun Sen said he would consider releasing four human rights officers and an election official – who have been detained since April – after the verdicts in their cases, but he said two members of the opposition will receive no such consideration.
 
During a session of the National Assembly yesterday, Mr. Hun Sen said there were three groups of requests for pardons, all of which needed to respect court procedures.
 
“The first case relates to the individuals of Adhoc and Ny Chakrya,” he said, referring to four Adhoc officials – Ny Sokha, Nai Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony – as well as Mr. Chakrya, a former Adhoc official and now the deputy secretary-general of the National Election Committee (NEC).
 
“If the court closes the investigation and proceeds with the trial, we can use the same method used with commune chief Mr. Seang Chet and the case of Mr. Kem Sokha,” he added, referring to an opposition CNRP commune chief and the acting CNRP president respectively.
 
Both Mr. Chet and Mr. Sokha were first convicted of crimes related to a prostitution case involving Mr. Sokha and his hairdresser and were then pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni in December after a request from the prime minister.
 
The four Adhoc officials and Mr. Chakrya, commonly referred to as the “Adhoc Five,” have been detained for more than nine months on charges, widely believed to be politically motivated, of attempting to bribe a witness or conspiracy to bribe a witness.
 
Mr. Hun Sen said yesterday that if the verdict is first enforced, court procedures would not be violated. He explained that two months must transpire after a conviction for a verdict to be officially enforced as time for an appeal must be allowed.
 
The second case related to prominent Boeung Kak land activist Tep Vanny, who was sentenced in September to six months in jail for insulting and obstructing a public official during a protest in 2011.
 
Last week, the Supreme Court struck down a bail request by Ms. Vanny, who was also charged with intentional violence related to a protest outside the prime minister’s home in 2013.
 
“I’m going to review the cases of some people who can be pardoned. I will check who has the less serious sentence and I will use my power as prime minister through prison law to ask for a pardon,” Mr. Hun Sen said yesterday.
 
Mr. Hun Sen said the third case pertained to CNRP members Hong Sok Hour and Um Sam An, who will not receive consideration for release as their cases were deemed too serious.
 
“I would like to tell Mr. Hong Sok Hour and Mr. Um Sam An that they won’t be pardoned as it’s a big case and it’s not good to violate the judiciary,” he said.
 
Mr. Sam An was sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in October to two and a half years in prison and fined four million riel (about $1,000) after being found guilty of incitement and discrimination.
 
Mr. Sam An was arrested on April 11 last year after traveling abroad for a number of months. His arrest and trial related to a series of comments and Facebook posts he made in 2015 and 2016 about the government’s handling of border demarcation between Cambodia and Vietnam.
 
Mr. Sok Hour was sentenced to seven years in prison in November for forging a public document after he posted on Facebook in 2015 a section of a 1979 Cambodia-Vietnam border treaty that claimed the two nations had agreed to dissolve their mutual border.
 
He was charged with forging a public document, using a forged public document and provocation to commit crimes.
 
On January 24, the families of the “Adhoc Five” appealed to the prime minister and the king, urging them to release the five officials.
 
Earlier last month Rhona Smith, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, called on the government to immediately release the group.
 
“The charges are seen as politically motivated and in November 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled their detention to be ‘arbitrary’,” she said.
 
San Vathanak, the daughter of Mr. Soksan, said she was happy with Mr. Hun Sen’s statement as the five families had sought his intervention.
 
“We hope that the prime minister will pardon all human rights officials because he said he would during the National Assembly’s plenary session,” she said.
 
“It shows that prime minister will intervene and use his power as prime minister to resolve the matter.”
 
Kuch Kimlong, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor working on this case, declined to comment, claiming he was busy. However, court spokesman Ly Sophanna said the investigating judge was continuing with legal procedures.
 
On October 27, investigating judge Theam Chan Piseth ruled that the five should remain in detention for up to six more months, after already serving six months in temporary detention.
 
The judge said this was due to the ongoing nature of investigations into their alleged bribery.

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