Alleged CFF Rebels Claim Innocence at Trial

Three alleged terrorists Tues­day proclaimed their innocence and another man said he had been threatened with death if he spoke about the failed Novem­ber uprising for which the four men and 28 other defendants are charged with leading.

After concluding the examination of Cambodian-American Richard Kiri Kim in Phnom Penh’s Supreme Court, Muni­cipal Court Judge Sok Setha Mony called five other alleged members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, who are among 32 people on trial for the Nov 24, 2000, uprising that reportedly killed eight in and around Phnom Penh.

During their testimony, Chao Sokha, Van Tem and Ly Chhun Houng all denied having taken part in the fight.

“I did not join CFF and I am not a CFF member,” Chao Sokha told the judge.

On the night of the attack, Choa Sokha, a moto taxi driver from Kandal province, said he walked to a village with a man he knew as Rin and two other men he did not know. Choa Sokha said he was carrying bread for Rin. When they arrived in the village, he saw three men with AK-47s.

“I went home then because I saw the situation was not good. I was very shocked and very terrified, and then I went home,” Choa Sokha said.

Because he carried the bread for Rin, other CFF members as­sumed he was a supporter, and put him down on their membership list, Chao Sokha testified.

After the attack, authorities obtained detailed plans and membership lists from Kiri Kim’s computer, which they are using as evidence against the defendants.

During his testimony, Van Tem said that CFF approached him to join, but he refused. “I refused to join them because I was worried something would happen,” he said.

But prosecutors showed a photo of Van Tem with a CFF member, which they said proved his membership in the organization.

Ly Chhun Houng, a journalist, also denied involvement in the uprising.

“I am the representative of the Association of Cambodia Develop­ment and Peace, and Richard Kiri Kim is the president. He asked me to gather other members to join this association. I am not CFF,” he said.

A fourth defendant, Nou Sarun, a former soldier at the military’s General Headquarters, admitted his CFF membership, but would not testify further because, he said, he had been threatened.

“I refused to answer because I heard that I would be killed if I dared to say anything,” he said.

The final defendant questioned Tuesday, Nou Ith Buntha, confessed to being involved in the attack, but apologized for it, saying that he was misled.

“I was very regretful after it happened. I was cheated. They promised they would give me between $200 and $300 per month for my work, but I never got any money,” he said.

It was his job to monitor the group’s radios, Nou Ith Buntha said. He did not join in the fighting itself, he said.

Kiri Kim, who also concluded his testimony Tuesday, has admitted to leading the fighters in what he called an attempt to overthrow both the government and the Constitution.

Their testimony, given in front of stacks of rusted automatic rifles, disabled grenades, rockets, rocket launchers, computers and radios, came amidst a continuing boycott by eight lawyers from the Cam­bodian Defenders Project, who say that the trial is a charade and their clients have been railroaded.

Judge Sok Setha Mony ad­journed the day’s proceedings after hearing from Ly Chhun Houng, calling for a reconvening at 7:30 am today.

The 32, which includes two Cambodian-Americans being tried in absentia and one woman, could face life in prison if convicted.

 

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