Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Kem Sokha’s attorneys appeal court’s decision to proceed with treason trial

Former opposition leader Kem Sokh, file photo. Stringer

Lawyers representing Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha have appealed a court’s decision to send the treason case against him to trial, questioning why the court had not spoken to more witnesses despite taking over two years to investigate the case.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court said in a statement on Monday that it had completed its investigation into Sokha, who is accused of colluding with the U.S. to topple the government. An investigating judge ordered that the case go to trial as there was sufficient evidence to proceed. A trial date has not been announced.

Sokha’s three defense lawyers said in an appeal letter dated Dec. 3 that the investigating judge had not questioned all sides in the case.

“The investigating judge failed to fully investigate involved parties as required by legal procedures,” they said, also objecting to Sokha remaining under court supervision more than two years after his arrest.

Sokha was arrested in September 2017 and imprisoned for about a year before being put under de facto house arrest last year. The conditions of his court supervision were relaxed last month, allowing him to travel around the country as long as he does not conduct political activities. He has not yet left his property, however, instead hosting meetings with various foreign diplomats at his house.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Sokha’s daughter Kem Monovithya called the treason charge against her father “baseless” and also criticized CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy, who took on the role of acting party president while Sokha was detained. Rainsy has lived in France since late 2015.

“There’s CPP court trying to convict Kem Sokha of treason after 2 years of unlawful detention,” Monovithya said.

“Meanwhile there’s Sam Rainsy smear machine working overtime calling Kem Sokha CPP puppet fearing he would later be pardoned by the King. This is the Cambodia politics we need to change,” she wrote.