Banteay Meanchey provincial court on Thursday sentenced Cambodia’s former anti-drug czar to life in prison for corruption in an alleged drug-trafficking scheme.
Moek Dara, the former secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, was arrested along with an aide, Chea Leng, in January 2011, and accused of abusing his post to gather hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and organizing drug trafficking.
A third defendant, Mor Deurn, was tried in absentia and given 25 years in prison.
The three were fined a total $500,000, an amount equal to that they allegedly took in bribes.
Moek Dara’s attorney, Ray Bunthoeun, called the verdict “unjust” and said he would appeal the decision.
“It seems to have had pressure from the top, or fear of the judge,” he said. “Importantly, it did not have clear evidence.”
Van Borath, defense attorney for Chea Leng, said he too would appeal the decision, which he said was made disregarding evidence he had presented at court.
However, supporters of the court decision said it sent a strong message to other officials abusing their office or engaged in corruption.
Sum Chankea, a rights worker for Adhoc, said the life sentence was “very serious,” especially considering the relatively light commuted sentence of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch, who’s 19-year sentence is under appeal at the UN-backed tribunal.
Thursday’s decision follows another high-profile case at the Banteay Meanchey court, which in November 2011 sentenced former provincial police chief Hun Hean and his deputy to four years in prison each for allegedly collecting bribes from drug traffickers.