After Exonerated for Murder, Sok Sam Oeun to Sue

Sok Sam Oeun, who was acquitted alongside Born Samnang in September for the murder of trade union leader Chea Vichea after serving five years of a 20-year sentence, plans to sue the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for damages, his lawyer said.

Mr. Sam Oeun’s attorney, Hong Kimsuon, said his client has decided to file a complaint against the court seeking compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.

“We will sue the municipal court to demand compensation from the state for damages inflicted as a result of serving five years for a crime he did not commit,” said Mr. Kimsuon.

Ang Mealatey, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, declined to comment on the case.

Despite a lack of evidence, the pair was convicted of shooting dead Chea Vichea, leader of the Free Trade Union, in broad daylight in January 2004.

Despite exonerating the men, Supreme Court Judge Khim Pon said they did not qualify for compensation, as it could not be proven they had suffered injury as a result of their imprisonment.

Mr. Kimsuon said the lawsuit was not only intended to find justice for Mr. Sam Oeun, who is now a construction worker in Siem Reap province, but also to push the issue of compensation for all those who suffer injustices at the hands of the courts.

“I think this will be a very good example for all victims that have faced the same problems as my client,” he said.

Though he was also wrongfully imprisoned, Mr. Samnang, who is now employed as a driver for a transport company that distributes phone cards for Smart mobile, earning $12 dollars per day, said he would not be seeking compensation.

“I wish to be free, that is enough for me,” he said. “But if the government paid me, if the government helped me out with some money, I would happily receive it.”

The lawyer Sok Sam Oeun, founder of the Cambodian Defenders’ Project, said such a lawsuit, if successful, could prove to be a false boon for victims of a flawed justice system.

“If every acquitted person started claiming for compensation from the state, they would never acquit anyone,” he said.

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