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Released Suspects in Union Murder Wary


Two men released on bail Thursday night after more than four years in prison said they were grateful but wary they had not received full justice.

Born Samnang, 24, and Sok Samoeun, 36, were released from Prey Sar prison Wednesday night, following a decision by the Supreme Court Wednesday ordering the Appeal Court to review murder charges against them for the 2004 killing of popular labor leader Chea Vichea.

The two men are widely believed innocent for the murder, despite decisions by the Phnom Penh Municipal and Appeals court of their guilt.

"We have not received 100 percent of justice yet, if we do not commit a murder, but at least we received a part of justice," Born Samnang told VOA Khmer by phone Thursday. "When I walked out of prison, my life was reborn, and I will be very happy if the court will completely
drop all charges against me."

"In walking out of prison, I am very happy," Sok Samoeun said. "But I have a very strange and unclear feeling for an injustice against me, as I suffered under powerful and legal men in Cambodia. I want the court to drop completely all charges against me, to provide real
justice for me, because I did not commit a murder."

Both men will be expected to appear before the Appeals Court in coming months, but their release, even if temporary, was welcomed.

"We hope the Appeals Court will take up the case expeditiously and finally resolve this matter in a way consistent with Cambodian law and international standards of due process," the US Embassy said in a statement.

Hong Kimsoun, defense lawyer for both men, called the decision a "victory"

Chea Vichea, the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, was gunned down Jan. 22, 2004, near the newspaper stalls near Wat Langka, in Phnom Penh's Chamkarmon district. Both were arrested shortly thereafter and convicted in August 2005 of murder, despite alibis and the absence of key evidence.

The municipal court's decision was upheld by the Appeals Court in April 2007, but after a five-hour hearing Wednesday, the Supreme Court said ordered the Appeals Court to review "mistakes" judges had made in legal process and evidence.

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