A U.S. court is due to open proceedings September 1 against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, Lieutenant General Hun Manet, after a jailed opposition member and U.S. citizen filed a complaint on April 8.
The complaint alleges Manet and Cambodian government officials are guilty of crimes against humanity, including torture, illegal detention, terrorism and illegal imprisonment.
On Thursday, Judge George H. Wu of the Central District Court of California will hear a second defense motion to dismiss the case while the plaintiff’s lawyers will argue that it should move to trial.
In April, as Manet toured parts of the U.S. that are home to large Cambodian diaspora communities, he was greeted by Cambodian-Americans protesting Phnom Penh's human rights violations and domestic property seizures. On the last day of Manet's visit, he was served with court documents by American private investigator Paul Hayes, who was hospitalized after allegedly being thrown to the ground by one of Manet’s bodyguards outside of a restaurant in Long Beach, California.
Hayes's subpoena was tied to a wrongful imprisonment suit brought in a U.S. federal court by Cambodian opposition official Meach Sovannara.
“The court should dismiss plaintiff’s complaint because they have failed to serve Manet or provide ... grounds for jurisdictional discovery into their service attempt,” John S. Purcell, an attorney for Hun Manet, said in the motion. “Moreover, the court should dismiss because plaintiffs have failed to establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction.”
However, Bo Uce, Sovannara’s attorney, said he had “enough evidence” for the judge to dismiss the defense’s motion, based on events surrounding Hayes's April 2016 hospitalization.
Sovannara is currently serving 20-year sentence for taking part in a protest in Phnom Penh in late 2014; he is one of 11 activists jailed on insurrection charges for clashing with police over the closure of a protest site in the capital.
“My husband has suffered some mental difficulties and has been sick a lot,” Sovannara's wife, Jamie Meach, told VOA's Khmer service.
Manet said in a statement to the court that he would not be in the United States while the case is being heard. Manet has denied he was served papers on the day in question, claiming tight security and protests outside the restaurant caused him to be accidentally pepper-sprayed.
“At no time on April 9 was I aware there was a man approaching me to hand me any legal papers,” he said.
According to California's guidelines on civil procedures before trial, Hayes's attempt to bring the subpoena to Manet's attention were sufficient to qualify as having served the documents.