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Court Reviews Defense Evidence, No Progress Made On Proving Treason Charge


FILE: Kem Sokha talks to VOA reporters at his residence before leaving for trial at Phnom Penh Municipal court over the charge of “Conspiring With Foreign State” in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, January 16th, 2020. (Malis Tum/VOA)

The eighth day of Kem Sokha’s treason trial, marking one month of hearings, was adjourned Thursday afternoon. There was no discussion in court on the treason charge, no cross examination of witnesses or consideration of new evidence and Kem Sokha did not say a single word in court.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court spent all of Thursday morning reviewing and documenting 51 pieces of evidence submitted by opposition leader Kem Sokha’s legal team, despite some of this evidence already being used during cross examination.

The eighth day of Kem Sokha’s treason trial, marking one month of hearings, was adjourned Thursday afternoon. There was no discussion in court on the treason charge, no cross examination of witnesses or consideration of new evidence and Kem Sokha did not say a single word in court.

The hearing commenced with the council of judges playing videos and listing out documents and photographs submitted by the defense as evidence.

While 16 of the 51 pieces of defense evidence were submitted on Tuesday and needed to be reviewed before being considered in the trial, the other 35 pieces of evidence had been submitted in January and had already been accepted by the council of judges.

It was not clear why this verification process was undertaken. Some of the videos, photos and documents, such as the registration papers for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and the Human Rights Party, have already used in court when it was reviewing Kem Sokha’s activities from 1993 to 2007.

The judges only said that there was some clarification needed in the documents. The prosecution and government lawyers also took objection with eight photographs submitted by the defense this week, as part of the second submission of evidence.

They asked for additional details such as a description of the event photographed, a more precise date of the event and the location.

These photos were of the Cambodian People’s Party and Cambodia National Rescue Party attending a workshop organized by the National Democratic Institute, Kem Sokha with then-NDI country director John Cavanaugh and a photo of National Assembly President Heng Samrin with John Cavanaugh.

“When you submit evidence, we suggest that some of the evidence be clarified,” said Ky Tech, the government’s lawyer. “If the evidence is fake then it is a problem.”

However, when defense lawyer Chan Chen raised a similar objection to the prosecution using “unverified” evidence from a Facebook account called “Kon Khmer,” prosecutor Plang Sophal said it had been admitted as evidence by the investigating judge and any objections should have been raised during the investigation period.

“This is not related to the charge,” Chan Chen said referring to the controversial Facebook account. “This is from a ghost account.”

“Did you bring your point during the investigation period?” judge Kuy Sao said. “I don’t want to speak about this again.”

The prosecution has not responded to questions about the veracity of the evidence sourced from “Kon Khmer.” The government lawyers have said that it was submitted by the “Anti-Cross Border Crimes Department” and accepted by the investigating judge.

Going back to the prosecution’s request for clarification on the newly introduced photographic evidence, prosecutor Plang Sophal held up a photo submitted by the defense, apparently showing Kem Sokha seated with two foreigners.

The photographic evidence is not clearly displayed to the gallery, with lawyers on all sides only holding up A4-size copies of the photos.

Plang Sophal surprisingly suggested that if the defense did not give him an explanation for the photograph he could say that the photo was evidence of Kem Sokha participating in or plotting a conspiracy with foreigners.

“I can say this is a conspiracy with foreigners,” he said, addressing the gallery.

Defense lawyer Meng Sopheary shot back that he could not make up an accusation without providing evidence to support it.

“The prosecutor has said that this is an instance of conspiracy,” Meng Sopheary said. “If you want to make this accusation then you have to give evidence to show it was part of the conspiracy, such as an audio recording of the meeting.”

The hearing ended with the council of judges accepting all of the defense’s evidence, but asked the defense to provide additional information about the photographic evidence.

Judge Kuy Sao added that the court will look into Kem Sokha career from 2012 to just before his arrest in 2017, dividing it into three sections of questioning. These are: the formation and internal structure of the CNRP, the 2013 general election and events that occurred after the 2013 national ballot.

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