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Chea Vichea Defendants Called to Court

The two accused murderers of labor leader Chea Vichea will be summoned back to the Appeals Court later this month, sources close to the court said Tuesday.

Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, both widely considered innocent of the crime, were released provisionally from jail earlier this year by the Supreme Court, which ordered the Appeals Court to reinvestigate the guilty verdicts against them.

“When I first received the summons, I felt excited, but later I felt stressful,” Sok Samoeun told VOA Khmer. “Justice will come to me soon; I strongly believe that.”

The two men each face 20-year prison terms. They were summoned to appear Aug. 17.

Their release last year was lauded by international and local observers, who have said they were convicted as scapegoats in the absence of compelling evidence and testimony.

They had already been in prison nearly five years when the Supreme Court ordered them released in December 2008.

“I want the case to end soon because I am innocent,” Born Samnang told VOA Khmer. “I have done nothing. I am waiting for the court to pass its judgment.”

Chea Vichea, who was gunned down in Phnom Penh in January 2004, was a popular labor leader able to mobilize great masses of workers. Supporters of Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun say his true killers remain at large.

Chea Vichea’s brother, Chea Mony, who now leads the Free Trade Union his brother once did, said he knew “absolutely nothing” of the court date, and said he had been kept in the dark over the proceedings.

Chea Mony said he would like to see former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov called to the Appeals Court. Heng Pov, who has said he was present during criminal acts planned by high-ranking officials, is facing a battery of charges from extortion and kidnapping to murder.

Heng Pov led the investigation in the Chea Vichea killing, and he too has said the two men were innocent.