Acquitted Judges, Prosecutor To Return to Jobs

 Three suspended Phnom Penh Municipal Court officials cleared of corruption charges in a retrial by Battambang Provincial Court on Friday will return to work, a member of the Supreme Council of Mag­istracy said Monday. 

Prior to the acquittal, Judges Ham Mengse and Hing Thirith, along with Deputy Prosecutor Khut Sop­heang, were all found guilty of taking bribes to release rob­bery suspects by the same court in Decem­ber and sentenced to four years in jail.

The three were prosecuted following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s prom­ise to use his “iron fist” to re­form the judiciary.

“They can go back to work when the verdicts come into effect,” said Ouk Vithun, Supreme Council of Mag­istracy member and Supreme Court Prosecutor-General.

“As far as I know the verdicts didn’t come into effect yet,” he add­ed.

The three were among seven municipal court officials who were acquitted on Friday.

Of the other four, judge Kong Sarith and deputy prosecutor Siem Sok Aun were fired prior to their ac­quittal, while court clerks Ly Meng and Sang Satny have been at work all along.

Ouk Vithun said he was unsure whether Kong Sarith and Siem Sok Aun will get their jobs back.

Siem Sok Aun said he could not comment until the verdict is finalized—which will occur within two months if there is no appeal.

“I don’t know whether this is over…how can I apply [to get my job back]?” he asked.

Battambang Provincial Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bunchea said he needed to consult with Justice Min­i­ster Ang Vong Vathana before de­cid­ing whether or not to appeal against the acquittals.

The court’s Presiding Judge Ith Samphors said there was no evidence against the men.

“The evidence was nonexistent,” he said. “How could I sentence them to prison?”

Three citizens, however, who were sentenced in December to 18 months in prison for paying bribes to the court officials will have to wait in prison until their appeal is heard by the Appeals Court, he added.

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