Twelve of 23 convicted Cambodian Freedom Fighters are expected to be released from prison in the coming days after serving months and in some cases years longer than their original sentences, a lawyer said Thursday.
The scheduled release follows the Appeals Court’s Thursday upholding of the convictions against all 23, relating to a CFF attack on government buildings in November 2000.
The 12 had been originally sentenced to between one and five years in prison by Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2001, but when they appealed their cases, the appeals process dragged on beyond the dates when they should have been released.
Ten men sentenced to five-year terms and two sentenced to one and three year terms respectively, are to be freed, defense lawyer Sann Chuoy said. Eleven others who were given longer sentences will remain jailed, while one defendant, Sok Sam, died at age 36 on April 18 after falling sick in prison, Sann Chuoy said.
He added that his clients had been tricked into participating in the attack.
Prosecutor Kong Srim said that while some of the defendants were tricked into joining the CFF, they were nonetheless guilty because they “caused disaster to the nation.”
Thirteen witnesses to the CFF’s failed and haphazard attack are scheduled to fly to the US to testify and present evidence in the July trial of CFF leader Chhun Yasith, who is accused of masterminding the 2000 incident, officials said.
Moek Dara, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug police department, said he will escort 13 witnesses to California to present testimony and evidence at the trial.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the group included police and military police who fought the motley band of CFF attackers as well as gas station workers injured during the attack.
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle confirmed that the Chhun Yasith’s prosecutor had requested the witnesses come to testify and that the embassy had worked with Cambodian authorities to coordinate the trip.