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Kem Sokha Lawyers to Rejoin Trial After Walking Out at Last Hearing

Kem Sokha, former leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), speaks to media as he departs his residence for the Phnom Penh municipal court for his trial on January 22, 2020. (Tum Malis/VOA Khmer)

Four lawyers representing Kem Sokha, who walked out during his treason trial on February 13, said on Tuesday they will rejoin the proceedings and hoped the hearing will proceed smoothly.

The four lawyers – Meng Sopheary, Pheng Heng, Ang Odom and Chan Chen – walked out of the February 13 hearing claiming that the council of judges was not allowing them to raise concerns over the admissibility and veracity of the evidence given to them by the court.

Meng Sopheary did not say why they had decided to rejoin the trial, only saying she hoped the trial would proceed without issue.

“We are not the leaders of the court; we are the participants in the proceedings,” she said. “So, it depends on the situation, but we just hope things will get better.”

Taing Sunlay, president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, and court spokesperson Y Rin did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

At one point during the heated hearing on February 13, the presiding judge rudely ordered Ang Odom to sit down and prevented him from speaking in court, resulting in the defense walking out. The council of judges continued the hearing before adjourning the proceedings till February 26.

Speaking on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen made a thinly-veiled reference to the trial saying the partial suspension of EU trade privileges on February 12 will not affect the court case, and guilty parties will have to face their punishment, a clear reference to Kem Sokha.

“Today, I would like to send a clear message that Cambodia is not backtracking on the trial for traitors or for those who receive punishment,” he said at the Peace Palace.

Kem Sokha has been charged with Article 443 of the Criminal Code for conspiring with a foreign power, with the trial entering its seventh week.