Thirteen alleged rebels imprisoned for their involvement with the outlawed Cambodian Freedom Fighters were again denied an Appeals Court hearing after showing up at court without legal representation last week.
Wednesday’s canceled trial marks the third time in almost two years that the prisoners, convicted in 2002 of terrorism and organized crime by a Battambang court, have been sent back to their cells without a hearing.
Two previously scheduled trial dates, one in May 2003, another in March 2004, were postponed.
“I have sent letters to ask for lawyers from every place but no one has offered their services,” said Thou Mony, Appeals Court presiding judge, adding that it is always a struggle to find representation for poor prisoners.
While the Cambodian Bar Association would normally allocate lawyers to help with the case, Thou Mony said, the organization has been kept occupied while it resolves an internal conflict over its leadership.
But former Bar Association president Ky Tech, who has launched an appeal to keep his position, said otherwise. He said he refused the case because the appellants were originally represented by the Cambodian Defenders Project, an organization he dislikes.
“I did not grant the lawyers because the CDP first helped the CFF,” he said, adding “we help only the poor victims, we do not help with political cases.”
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the CDP, said they had lost touch with the prisoners after their case was transferred from Battambang to Phnom Penh. He added that the CDP would offer lawyers to the alleged rebels if they made contact and requested help.
Ham Sunrith, monitoring acting coordinator for rights group Licadho, said Monday that his organization would interview the 13 prisoners in an effort to find them representation.
“It is a waste of government money to bring the prisoners to court just to cancel the trial,” he said.