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Rights Group Urges US to Cancel Visa of 'Notorious' Police Chief

Human Rights Watch Monday urged US officials to cancel the visa of "notorious" National Police Chief Hok Lundy, who has been invited to Washington for counterterrorism discussions but who is widely suspected of serious crimes himself.

"Hok Lundy's alleged involvement in political violence and organized crime in Cambodia means that the FBI should be investigating him, not hosting him," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.

Hok Lundy has been accused of extrajudicial killings, human rights abuses, orchestrating the 1997 grenade attack on opposition demonstrators, human and drugs smuggling and other crimes.

"I understand the allegations against this individual, and I looked into the matter, it came up this morning. And what I was told was that -- in adjudicating the visa, that there were no legal bars to his receiving a visa," US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said in response to questions at a press briefing Tuesday.

"So essentially it comes down to a policy judgment, and the policy judgment in this case was he was scheduled to attend a conference or a meeting with the FBI concerning counterterrorism issues," McCormack said.

McCormack declined further comment, citing legal constraints surrounding the visa application process. He referred further questions to the FBI.

FBI press officers were not immediately available for comment.

The accusations have already been brought to the attention of US officials, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Monday. To invite the police general to the United States, despite the allegations will likely have negative repercussions, the rights group said.

"By inviting Hok Lundy to discuss the rule of law and effective police enforcement, the US government is likely to breed cynicism among Cambodians about its commitment to human rights and political reform," Adams said.

Last year, Hok Lundy was invited to an anti-crime conference in the US but was denied a visa.

"As far as I know, they say there is a link to, or involvement in, the problem of sexual trafficking of women and children in Cambodia,'' Hok Lundy told VOA last year in response to the visa denial. "And then they put the fault on the lack of police competence and charged that the National Police Commander pays no attention. So, that's it, briefly speaking, and they put the matter as 'sanction'.''

Hok Lundy told VOA this month his refusal of a visa last year was a misunderstanding.

Human Rights watch disagreed.

"Treating Hok Lundy like a respected law enforcement officer is something out of 'Alice in Wonderland,'" Adams said. "He represents the absolute worst that Cambodia has to offer and should never have been given a US visa."

Hok Lundy is scheduled to visit April 19 through April 24.