The Appeal Court on Monday held a closed-door hearing to consider a challenge by two former Radio Free Asia reporters against a Phnom Penh court decision to delay a verdict in the trial linked to pornography charges.
The former reporters – Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin – were charged in 2017 for alleged espionage and later additionally charged with a pornography charge. This is linked to alleged lewd images involving one of the two accused, with rights groups calling the charge frivolous and an attempt to pressure the duo.
The Appeal Court will decide on the Phnom Penh court’s September decision to send their case for additional investigation, despite concluding the trial hearing this August. A decision is expected on December 30, with a similar Appeal Court hearing on the espionage charges to be held on January 20, 2020.
Yeang Sothearin, one of the two former RFA reporters, told reporters outside court that the delays in their case and the additional pornography charges were an attempt to “convict and persecute them,” a clear and chilling signal to other journalists, he added.
“[The] intention is to persecute us; both of us are former RFA journalists and have produced reports which the government didn't favor.
VOA Khmer could not reach Touch Tharith, Appeal Court spokesperson, for comment on Monday.
Uon Chhin, the other reporter involved in the case, said their case was intertwined with the political situation in the country and that the charges were baseless.
The government and court have yet to produce any credible or forensic evidence to substantiate the pornography charges. Rights groups like Licadho and Human Rights Watch have called for both charges to be dropped immediately and politically motivated.