Human rights groups on Monday urged thorough court investigation into a case of alleged terrorism brought against two men who sent letters to Western embassies in April and were arrested and charged last week.
Rafiqu Leslami Aka Kalan, a 42-year-old cook from Bangladesh, and TD Taudyal, a 44-year-old marketing manager from Nepal, were charged following a monthlong police investigation into letters the had allegedly sent warning officials from the US, UK and Australia of an attack.
The letters now appear to be part of a business dispute with four other foreign men, who were found to be no threat. But the defendants are facing 20-year prison sentences under Cambodia’s anti-terrorism laws.
Representatives of the groups Licadho and Adhoc said Monday authorities must undertake more investigation into this case before the men are brought to trial.
Chan Saveth, Adhoc’s lead investigator, said Monday he welcomed the arrest of men involved in terrorism, but he appealed to Cambodian authorities to open further investigation in this case to show more proof for the terrorism charges of terrorism. He also urged a public trial for the two men.
“We don’t want to depend on little evidence,” he said, adding that the two men should be tried in public.
The court’s faced criticism for the 2004 terrorism trial of two Cambodians and a Thai man charged in a plot to attack US and UK embassies in 2002. Rights groups have said the men were tried with little transparency.
Cambodia has been eager to prove itself tough on terrorism and a good friend of the US in its own regional counterterrorism campaign, following the discovery that the former leader of the Southeast Asian terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah had been harbored in Cambodia’s Muslim community prior to his arrest in Thailand in 2003.
Am Sam Ath, an investigator for Lichado, said the case against Kalan and Taudyal was “complicated,” and he likewise urged more investigation.
“Before accusing any person, the court should find 50 percent of their evidence before they accuse them and detain them in jail,” he said.
Keat Chantharith, a spokesman for the national police and a three-star general, said the case has already been sent to the court. “Police can investigate any case, but it depends on the court order for the police,” he added.
Ke Sakhorn, an investigating judge for Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said the case had just arrived at the court last week. “It is early for the court to investigate,” he said. “This week, I will invite police to question them more about this case.”