The Council of Judges will decide Wednesday afternoon whether the 34 pieces of evidence submitted by the opposition leader Kem Sokha’s defense team can be presented in court, and will also play a one-hour segment of the alleged “treason” video.
The trial resumed at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday, after trial judges ended last Thursday’s hearing early, to give the defense time to submit any evidence it wanted to present before the court. This included a longer video clip of the 2013 speech in Australia to party supporters, which allegedly shows Kem Sokha’s admitting to conspiring with foreign powers.
The defense began the proceedings by detailing all 35 pieces of evidence. This included the one-hour video clip of his 2013 speech in Australia, which has already been admitted by the judges. Ten shorter segments of the same speech, videos of his time as a parliamentarian in the 1990s and then later as deputy president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party as part of the evidence submitted.
A video clip of Kem Sokha during the post-2013 national election protests at Freedom Park was also submitted, to show him calling for political negotiations to end the stalemate, the defense said. Another speech from the 2017 commune election, showing Kem Sokha talking to party members in Takeo about their campaign strategy was part of the evidence as well.
Kem Sokha’s lawyers also submitted various documents like the registration application for the CNRP, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), statements and letters sent by him to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in his capacity as a lawmaker, including those released during 2014 negotiations between the CPP and CNRP, dubbed the “Culture of Dialogue.”
Lastly, the defense submitted pictures and photographs to support all the other pieces of evidence they wanted to present in court. The defense specifically submitted documents from the USAID website to show that the U.S.-funded organization had worked closely with Cambodia on various development issues, and that their link to CCHR should not be considered questionable.
The lawyers said that different video clips from the 2013 speech, which the prosecution said was the smoking gun in the case, would show that the 2-minute clip played in court last week was misleading and had been edited and cut to misrepresent Kem Sokha’s speech.
“That is why we have submitted the true video clip. The [other] video was cut into small pieces and put together,” said Kem Sokha, often turning to address the gallery.
The defense also contended that documents, videos, photos and statements from Kem Sokha’s career as a politician and human rights advocate, spanning the alleged duration of the crime, from 1993 to 2017, would show that he did not demonstrate any intention to commit treason.
The photos, they said, were of his political interactions with representatives from China, Japan and other Asian countries, showing that the prosecution’s contention that he was only working with a few countries, like the United States, to commit treasonous acts was untrue.
“I do not have any activity of treason,” Kem Sokha said, facing the three-judge panel.
The prosecution, while claiming the defense had a right to submit evidence, said that they had received all the defense evidence only on Tuesday and needed more time to review all the videos, transcripts of the videos and documents.
It further claimed that some evidence had been submitted in foreign languages and that the prosecutors did not speak English, so those pieces of evidence should be translated by official court translation services.
One of the two prosecutors also accused the defense of trying to mislead the court, by submitting evidence at the last minute, making it hard to review the evidence.
“You are shaking hands with one hand, but holding a knife behind your back with the other hand,” he said.
The civil plaintiff, represented by government lawyers, said that they agreed with the prosecution that there wasn’t enough time to review the evidence and they too needed more time.
Government lawyer Ky Tech also complained in court about not getting enough time to speak in the hearing and said that Kem Sokha had spoken in court about the 35 pieces of evidence, but the presiding judge was not allowing anyone else to comment on the opposition leader’s comments.
The debate then shifted to a point raised last week by Kem Sokha about why was he being charged of treason starting 1993, when the Cambodian Criminal Code came into effect only in 2010.
Deputy prosecutor Plang Sophal said that the “treason” video, even though it was shot in 2013, showed Kem Sokha admitting to a treasonous plot starting from 1993.
And that further investigation from the investigating judge and judicial investigators showed that the opposition leader’s activities fit the narrative laid out in the speech, Plang Sophal added.
“The accused has done, was doing and continued to do [the offence] since 1993, as he said in the speech,” Plang Sophal said.
Kem Sokha’s co-defense lawyer, Meng Sopheary, said that the prosecution had shown no evidence to prove that Kem Sokha’s 2013 speech showed that he started conspiring against the state in 1993.
If they could not show specific events and activities to prove their accusation, then there was no evidence of Kem Sokha conspiring with foreign powers, she added.
“I see that this case has no evidence,” she said. “It only focuses on the video, but they need to show actual activities in 1993, 1994, 1998 [and so on].”
The hearing will resume Wednesday afternoon, when the judges will rule on the admissibility of the 34 pieces of the defense’s evidence.
It will also play a one-hour segment of the 2013 “treason” speech, with judges saying that all parties can then compare the longer video with the shorter 2-minute clip played in court last week.
Kem Sokha is facing up to 30 years if convicted of conspiring with foreign powers. The trial commenced last week, more than two years after Kem Sokha was arrested in midnight raid in September 2017.