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Kem Sokha's lawyers urge speedy Cambodian treason trial

Prosecutors argue video shows opposition leader taking orders from the United States

Kem Sokha's lawyers urge speedy Cambodian treason trial

Kem Sokha, former leader of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, speaks to the media at his home before going to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for the resumption of his trial on treason charges on Jan. 19 (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 26, 2022 09:07 AM GMT

Updated: January 26, 2022 09:12 AM GMT

Lawyers representing Kem Sokha, the former president of the outlawed Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), have urged judges to speed up his treason trial after lengthy delays initially blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic.

His trial resumed on Jan. 25 with the prosecution repeatedly playing a video in which deputy prosecutor Chhay Hong alleged Kem Sokha was “following orders from the US to overthrow the Cambodian government just like the way it was done in the former Yugoslavia.”

Speaking after the hearing, Kem Sokha’s defense attorney Ang Udom said the video was the only evidence being offered by the prosecutors to prove his guilt. The prosecution also played seven shorter video clips edited from the original footage.

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“These video clips have been played many times already and each side has argued about them, yet the prosecution keeps showing them,” Udom told the Phnom Penh Post.

“We requested that the court speed up the trial procedures, but it seems that the court won’t agree to our request and has now scheduled the next hearing on Feb. 2.”

He said he would like Phnom Penh Municipal Court to hold three hearings per week.

If the accused confessed to what he has not done, that would be fake justice and he would be given punishment that isn’t due, which is unacceptable

Kem Sokha is facing up to 30 years behind bars if convicted of “conspiring with a foreign power to topple the government.”

Chhay Hong said the clips also showed Kem Sokha taking part in mass demonstrations to overthrow the government between 2013 and 2014.

He said the clips had been made during a trip made by Kem Sokha to meet with supporters in Australia and revealed a plot funded by foreigners and that he had made a secret agreement with a foreign state or its agents against the government in 2013.

“The video clip filmed by Australia’s CBN TV is saying that he was following orders from the US to overthrow the Cambodian government just like the way it was done in the former Yugoslavia,” Chhay Hong said.

Ang Udom also criticized prosecutors who said last week that the hearings could be concluded quickly if Kem Sokha accepted the truth and changed his plea to guilty.

“The accused has no guilt and nothing to confess. If the accused confessed to what he has not done, that would be fake justice and he would be given punishment that isn’t due, which is unacceptable,” he said.

Kem Sokha’s trial has attracted the attention of foreign diplomats and human rights activists who claim he is being prosecuted for political reasons and have called for his immediate release.

The CNRP was outlawed in late 2017, enabling the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party to win every seat contested at elections the following year.

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