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Former Chief Acquitted of Extortion

Former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov was acquitted Wednesday of extortion in the kidnapping case of a Korean businessman in 2005, municipal court officials said.

Heng Pov, once an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, is already in prison for the murder of a judge and faces other criminal charges that will be ruled on in coming days.

Phnom Penh Municipal Judge Iv Kim Sry exonerated Heng Pov and an associate, Meng Say, who was once head of the police anti-trafficking and protection of minors unit.

Heng Pov, who appeared to be in poor health, told reporters he would talk to them later.

"The sentence is proper, with transparency and fairness," Heng Pov's lawyer, Meng Sokun, said. "The court has deliberated the case, both in investigation and my defense. I think justice will be done in the Khmer society."

Heng Pov was sentenced 18 years in absentia last year for the murder of judge Sok Sethamony in 2003. He had fled to Malaysia and was seeking asylum when he was extradited.

Before his arrest, Heng Pov issued a lengthy letter that linked government officials to a grenade attack on an opposition party demonstration in 1997 and the shooting death of actress Piseth Pilika in 1999, among other crimes. The allegations were dismissed as a bid for political asylum.