WASHINGTON DC —
Two key witnesses in a lawsuit against General Hun Manet, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, are due to appear in a U.S. court on Thursday, more than a year after a civil case was filed against the deputy military commander.
The plaintiffs, jailed opposition official Meach Sovannara and his family, allege that Manet is responsible for torture, terrorism, assault and false imprisonment.
Sovannara was imprisoned for taking part in a protest in 2014.
The case has stalled due to arguments over jurisdiction, which Thursday’s hearing seeks to put to rest.
Manet was served a subpoena in Long Beach, CA, last year, but his lawyers have disputed whether the subpoena was properly served.
Morton Sklar, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said two key witnesses would provide testimony on Thursday that would serve to back up allegations that Manet’s security guards attempted to stop the subpoena from being served.
Cambodian-Americans protest outside the La Lune restaurant, in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday, April 9, 2016. (Poch Reasey/VOA Khmer)
Paul Hayes, who was tasked with delivering the notice to Manet as he dined at the La Lune restaurant on April 9, 2016, was injured during an altercation outside the restaurant.
“We subpoenaed them to appear as witnesses and those subpoenas were properly delivered,” Sklar told VOA Khmer. “I cannot guarantee that they’re gonna be there because I’m not allowed to communicate with them about the substances of the case. But our assumption is they will abide by the court order and they will appear. That’s what they’re supposed to do and they violate the court order if they do not.”
Hayes has accused Manet’s security guards of causing his injuries that day.
Manet claims to have never received the subpoena and has asked the court to drop the case against him.
Sklar said the plaintiffs had reached out to Cambodians who were at an anti-Manet protest outside the restaurant that day to identify Hayes’s attackers.
“We compared those identifications with photographs of these individuals, these two individuals, on the two individuals’ social network Facebook pages and there was a very clear match,” he said, referring to the witnesses due to give testimony at the hearing.
Hundreds of Cambodian-Americans protest the visit of Lt. Gen. Hun Manet, Deputy Chairman of Joint Staff in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and the eldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday, April 9, 2016. (Poch Reasey/VOA Khmer)
Sklar said he had also used the Long Beach police’s identification data to try to determine who the assailants were.
“I can inform you that this case is still under investigation,” Detective David Turnullo said.
However, a court document filed by Sklar’s team and posted on the court website identified the two witnesses as Nuon Khavy and San Kimhong, Cambodian-Americans living in California.
“I have received information from Mr. Sklar and I am looking into it,” said detective Turnullo.
One of the witnesses, Khavy, confirmed that he had received the subpoena, but denied any knowledge of the incident.
“On that day, I was helping to welcome guests inside [the restaurant],” he said. “I did not know anything happened outside.”
Khavy said he would appear in court, adding that he had already been interviewed by police.
Cambodian-Americans protests against the visit of Lt. Gen. Hun Manet, Deputy Chairman of Joint Staff in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and the eldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday, April 9, 2016. (Poch Reasey/VOA Khmer)
“They came to ask me what I did on that day and whether I saw the incident,” he said. “I said that I was there but helped to usher guests inside. Before I was admitted, I was also stopped for almost an hour. They didn’t even want to let me in and once I was inside they didn’t let me out. I knew nothing of what was going on outside.”
Kimhong refused to comment when contacted by VOA Khmer.
“They are pretty strongly connected to Hun Manet,” said Sklar. “In fact both of them have been identified as being part of Hun Manet’s bodyguard team on other occasions. They weren’t just bystanders, they were people who were performing a function on behalf of the defendant, Hun Manet. And that’s why Hun Manet needs to be responsible for the attack and the interference in the service of process by Paul Hayes.”