2 Suspects Held in Slaying of Judge Released

A Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge has dropped charges against two suspects being held in the killing Municipal Court Judge Sok Sethamony last April, citing insufficient evidence.

Judge Kim Sophorn said Mon­day he filed for the release of Chhun Chetra, 36, and Mol Meat, 41, on April 6, and presiding Judge Sok Roeun approved his decision 24 hours later.

“They were not the killers of Sok Sethamony,” Kim Sophorn said.

Sok Sethamony was gunned down at a busy intersection in Phnom Penh on the morning of April 23, 2003.

Witnesses said two men on a motorbike, both wearing helmets, pulled alongside the judge’s vehicle and shot him four times, with a K-59 pistol.

Military police arrested Chhun Chetra and Mol Meat in Novem­ber. A third suspect also was ar­rest­ed but was freed shortly thereafter. Authorities claimed at the time that the men were anti-government Cambodian Free­dom Fighters seeking ven­geance.

Sok Sethamony had presided over the 2001 trials of CFF members accused of participating in the November 24, 2000, attack on Phnom Penh.

On Monday, Kim Sophorn said that extensive investigation and interviews with witnesses had not built a case against the suspects.

In December, he called on po­lice to provide more evidence, after eye­wit­nesses gave physical descriptions of the attackers that did not match Chhun Chetra and Mol Meat.

But the judge hesitated to drop the charges.

“If we release these men, there will be a strong reaction from the police,” Kim Sophorn said Dec 17. “We are doing our best to avoid that reaction.”

A human rights worker said Monday Kim Sophorn had planned to release the suspects in March, but reconsidered after the Supreme Council of Magistracy removed two Municipal Court investigating judges.

Kim So­phorn would not comment on any influence the Coun­cil’s action might have had on his decision.

Rights workers from several organizations said the two men were freed on April 13. Their whereabouts are not known.

 

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