Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha appeared for questioning at Phnom Penh Municipal Court Thursday morning, to answer allegations that he forged budget documents and embezzled money when he was the head of a local rights organization.
Sixteen former staff members of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, which Kem Sokha headed from 2002 to 2007, filed complaints in 2006 alleging they were cheated out of their salaries and per diem payments.
Prosecutors said in August they would begin looking into just two of those complaints, following a review of the evidence.
Kem Sokha spent two hours in questioning at the courthouse Thursday. He told reporters afterward he had shown proof of his innocence.
He accused the court of political bias, claiming that it had waited until he was in politics to pursue the case. He appealed to the court to drop the case.
Deputy court prosecutor Sok Roeun said he was now compiling both of the complaints into one case before he decides whether it is worthy of an indictment.
Chhim Phal Vorun, a former staff member for education at the center and a representative of the complainants, said he wanted Kem Sokha to “pay back” a total $900,000 in lost funds.
He alleged that the US-based International Republican Institute had provided $1 million per year in funding to the center, but that Kem Sokha had kept between 20 percent and 30 percent for himself.
IRI officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Kem Sokha told reporters Thursday that the institute had performed an audit already and found no wrongdoing.