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Family of Slain Union Leader Welcomes Court Move

Relatives of Chea Vichea, who was gunned down in 2004, joined UN agencies in praising a recent court order for a reinvestigation into the case, saying two men widely believed innocent should be absolved of the charges against them and the true murderers punished.

The statements follow the order of the Appeals Court Monday reopening the investigation, potentially freeing Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, two men arrested shortly after the killing and facing 20-year prison sentences.

The Supreme Court ordered their release on bail in December 2008, leading to hopes the Appeals Court, which had been ordered to review the case, would free the men.

“I just want to suggest to the government and the Appeals Court to revise the case and find the real killer and fully free the two convicted,” said Chea Kim Ny, wife of the slain union leader, speaking from Finland, where she has political asylum.

The UN human rights office in Phnom Penh issued a joint statement with the International Labor Organization this week welcoming the Appeals Court decision and adding that the evidence against Born Samnang and Sok Samoeung was even more clearly insufficient for their detention.

The case “raised wider questions about the ability of the Cambodian justice system to administer justice in accordance with international standards and the willingness of the authorities to combat extra-judicial killings and impunity,” the groups said. “The miscarriage of justice perpetrated against Born Samnang and Sok Samouen has allowed the real murderers to escape justice for more than five years now.”

Chea Mony, Chea Vichea’s brother, who now heads the Free Trade Union, said the court should issue an official letter freeing the two men.

Chea Vichea was only the one in a line of murdered labor leaders. His shooting was followed by the killing of Ros Sovannareth, killed in May 2004, and Hy Vuthy, killed in February 2007.

None of the cases has been solved.