After three cancellations in two years, the Appeals Court on Thursday heard the case of 13 alleged members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, all but one of whom told the court that they were coerced into confessing links to the outlawed rebel group.
The group were convicted by Battambang Provincial Court in 2002 of terrorism and organized crimes following a CFF attack on government buildings in Phnom Penh in November 2000.
Twenty-five people were originally arrested and nine were released. The remaining 14 appealed.
One of the 14, Suy Bour, died in Monivong Hospital after being detained at Prey Sar prison.
Hang Nhorn, who was sentenced to 8 years in prison on charges of belonging to an armed group and of terrorism, told the court on Thursday that he was beaten by military police until he confessed.
“I was so painful that I answered what they wanted,” he said, adding that police also promised him $0.75 and two packets of cigarettes to confess.
Nem Sopheap gave similar testimony, saying he was forced to confess and sentenced to 8 years in prison as a result.
When Presiding Judge Thou Mony asked him why he confessed to the crime, Nem Sopheap said he was threatened by police.
Pleung Savoeun told the investigating judge that he was beaten until blood came out of his ears and nose.
“Now I understand the law and I am not afraid any more. I have a lawyer,” he said.
Thou Mony, however, rejected claims that the confessions were coerced and said he did not believe police forced them to memorize their testimony.
Defense lawyers said that because their clients’ confessions were taken without the presence of a lawyer, they are inadmissible.
But Appeals Court Prosecutor Kong Srim said many inmates did not have representation due to a shortage of lawyers in Battambang. He admitted, however, that there might have been “improper arrest,” but added, “they were not arrested red-handed, there are many documents to arrest them.”
The court’s decision will announced on April 20.