The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a conviction against a former rights worker and election official found guilty of defamation.
However, the court sent the case back to the Court of Appeals for reassessment, citing a lack of evidence.
Ny Chakrya, deputy secretary of the National Election Committee, was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for allegedly defaming officials and coercing judicial officials.
He was found guilty and could face six months’ imprisonment if the verdict is not overturned.
Am Sam Ath, head of investigations at local rights group Licadho, said the Supreme Court was right in referring the case back to the Appeals Court.
But he said the case should be dropped as the land dispute at the center of the defamation allegations had already been resolved.
“He [Chakrya] had enough documents to support his work. So far we know that the arrested people, the community people, were released and their land dispute was solved. So I think it’s time to end this case, meaning that when the Appeals Court heads his case again, any charges against him should be dropped,” he said.
In 2015, deputy prosecutor Sok Keo Bandith and the investigating judge, Ky Rithy, of the Siem Reap Provincial Court, sued Chakrya for defamation after the then-rights worker held a press conference in which he said villagers detained during a land dispute in the area had been arrested unjustly.
Chakrya sued the officials for allegedly making illegal arrests during the dispute in 2014.
Uk Kimsith, a Supreme Court spokesman, said on Monday that the court had ordered the case be re-heard as it found a lack of evidence to uphold the conviction.
“The Appeals Court didn’t have enough evidence to uphold the conviction issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court,” he said.
Licadho said there were “several other discrepancies” in the trial process, adding that civil parties and their lawyers were not present during proceedings and the investigation was hampered by Chakrya’s detention at the time.