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Hearing Begins Against Senior Opposition Leader

 Chhum Mey talking to reporters outside the court Monday On June 24, 2013.
Chhum Mey talking to reporters outside the court Monday On June 24, 2013.
PHNOM PENH - Phnom Penh Municipal Court has opened a hearing against senior opposition official Kem Sokha, who is being sued by a Khmer Rouge survivor for allegedly denying atrocities committed by the regime.

Denials of such crimes were made illegally by a law hastily passed by the ruling party-dominated National Assembly earlier this month.

The suit was brought by outspoken Khmer Rouge survivor Chhum Mey, who was questioned by court officials Monday. He claims Kem Sokha denied the Khmer Rouge atrocities committed at the infamous prison of Tuol Sleng, where Chhum Mey was held. He is suing for $1,000 to support a Buddhist ceremony for the victims of the prison.

Specifically, Kem Sokha is accused of claiming that atrocities at the prison were staged by Vietnamese forces that ousted the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979.

Kem Sokha, who is the vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, has denied the allegations, saying they were made up by ruling party supporters to discredit the opposition.

“I need justice, because Kem Sokha exaggerated about Tuol Sleng,” Chhum Mey told reporters outside the court Monday.

His lawyer, Kouy Thunna, said Kem Sokha’s alleged claims were harmful to victims of the regime.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Rescue Party, said they were not concerned about the allegations or the court hearing.