US Court Will Hear Case Against Hun Manet, Lawyer Says

A U.S. court will next week hold its first hearing in CNRP official Meach Sovannara’s lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, Hun Manet, for wrongful imprisonment, according to a lawyer involved in the case.

Mr. Sovannara, who has U.S. citizenship, is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Cambodia handed down by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last year in a case widely seen as politically motivated. He is suing Lieutenant General Manet, who holds a number of high-level positions in Cambodia’s armed forces, and the government for damages resulting from “torture through arbitrary, extra-legal and long-term detention.”

Hun Manet (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Hun Manet (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Police in Long Beach, California, have opened a related investigation into allegations that Lt. Gen. Manet’s bodyguards assaulted Paul Hayes, the man sent to serve the premier’s son with the subpoena, outside a local restaurant on April 9.

According to a statement released on Tuesday by Mr. Sovannara’s lawyer, Morton Sklar, the U.S. District Court of California in Los Angeles will on September 1 consider initiating jurisdictional discovery, a process they hope will uncover facts to support their claims against Lt. Gen. Manet and show that the U.S. court has the authority to rule on them.

If granted, the statement says, “Hun Manet and the Government of Cambodia will be placed in the position of having to disclose many facts that could prove potentially embarrassing, including their role in the violent attack on Paul Hayes when he was delivering service of process in the case.”

“It will open the door to a broad inquiry about the [role] that Hun Manet, eldest son and heir apparent to Prime Minister Hun Sen, has played in organizing, directing and carrying out a broad campaign of human rights abuses aimed at stifling dissent and criticism of the government.”

At the hearing, Mr. Sovannara’s team also plans to submit photographs and video footage to prove that Lt. Gen. Manet was properly served in April and that the general’s bodyguards attacked Mr. Hayes, according to the statement. It says Mr. Hayes required spinal surgery to treat his injuries from the attack.

After returning from his U.S. trip, Lt. Gen. Manet dismissed the lawsuit and claimed that Mr. Hayes “somehow tripped and fell” outside the restaurant.

Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat and the head of the prime minister’s bodyguard unit, Hing Bun Heang, who counts Lt. Gen. Manet as a deputy, both declined to comment on the court case and referred questions to the premier’s son, who could not immediately be reached.

According to the statement from Mr. Sovannara’s lawyer, Lt. Gen. Manet has hired the U.S. law firm Quinn Emanuel to handle his defense.

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

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