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Opposition VP Questioned Over Statements Made on US Trip

Kem Sokha vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and First Vice President of the National Assembly greets his supporters from his car after leaving Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday, April 8th, 2015.

Kem Sokha, the vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, spent seven hours answering questions from Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday.

The court’s prosecution office had summoned him over comments he allegedly made while on a trip to the US last month, telling supporters that the opposition hopes to one day lead the country. Prime Minister Hun Sen in public speeches said the statements were cause for suspicion.

Kem Sokha told reporters after his hearing Wednesday the court had repeated many of its questions over and over, particularly requesting he define the word “revolution.”

“They asked details, asked the meaning of the words that I had said,” he said. “They asked about the protests, about my trip to the States, and everything.”

Followed the hearing, Kem Sokha was welcomed by some 100 supporters and Rescue Party lawmakers, who had been gathered in front of the court since earlier in the day.

Meng Sopheary, one of Kem Sokha’s four lawyers, who sat in on the questioning, told journalists that the prosecutors asked questions “all over the place” without any specifics, until the lawyers requested that they to stop.

“I think the questions were complicated and about everything,” she said. His lawyers reminded them he had come “based on the prosecutors’ invitation.”

“He is not a witness, accused person or plaintiff,” she said.

Kem Sokha has been summoned for additional questioning on a case involving violent protests in January 2014, in which at least five people were killed in a brutal government crackdown.

Rights workers who monitored Wednesday’s hearing say it appeared politically motivated and related to political negotiations between the Rescue Party and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“In every situation in Cambodia, the politicians always put pressure to their opponents in negotiations, during a political deadlock or any issue,” Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said.

Officials at Phnom Penh court could not be reached for comment. The court took no significant steps beyond Wednesday’s questioning.