Alleged Tiger Head Leader in Court over Failed Bombing

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried an alleged ringleader in the so-called anti-government Tiger Head Movement who has been charged as an accomplice in a 2007 attempt to blow up the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship monument, court officials said.

Deputy prosecutor Hing Bunchea said the court is trying 49-year-old Som Ek as an accomplice to commit acts of terrorism. Mr Ek is also facing charges related to the use of explosives, Mr Bunchea said.

In January 2009, Mr Ek allegedly confessed to paying another alleged Tiger Head member, Sok Kim Sovath, $500 to carry out the monument attack.

At the trial yesterday, Mr Ek denied any involvement in the attempted monument bombing.

“I confessed to doing this because I was concerned about my family’s security,” he said.

According to his lawyer Im Socheat, Mr Ek was charged in August 2007 as an accomplice in the monument attack, though he was not arrested until January 2009.

Mr Ek was arrested then in relation to a separate attempted bombing after police found three small explosive devices outside the Defense Ministry near the TV3 studio. He was charged along with four other men with committing acts of terrorism over that incident, though their trial has not yet been completed. Police have long considered the two incidents related.

“I request that the court consider the action that happened at the monument, and at the Defense Ministry and TV3 studio, were similar to each other,” Mr Bunchea said.

Mr Ek claims he gave the $500 to Mr Kim Sovath to help establish a Tiger Head community in Banteay Meanchey province, and told the court he was in Kompong Cham province when the incident took place.

“I am building a community to participate in public policy, and have no intention of destroying the country of Cambodia. I did not do this, and I did not order Sok Kim Sovath to do this,” he said in court.

Mr Kim Sovath was convicted in Aug 2008 of carrying out the failed bombing and sentenced to 16 years in prison. During yesterday’s trial, the court clerk read out a statement in which Mr Kim Sovath confessed to participating in the attack.

Presiding judge Suos Sam Ath said the verdict in the case would be announced on Sept 8.

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