Appeal Court Upholds Guilty Verdicts in Murder of Deminer

The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the 2008 conviction of four former Khmer Rouge soldiers, in­cluding a former RCAF brigadier general, for their roles in the 1996 abduction and murder of a British de­miner and his interpreter, a court official said yesterday.

Reading from the decision from the Feb 7 trial, presiding Judge Oum Sarith said yesterday that the court upheld the Phnom Penh Municipal Court decision because the defense offered no evidence to reduce the sentence for the detainment and murder of British deminer Christopher Howes and his Cambodian interpre­ter Houn Hourth.

In October 2008, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted three former Khmer Rouge soldiers—including Khim Ngon, who became a de­puty chief of staff of the RCAF infantry after he defected to the government in the mid-1990s—of premeditated killing, kidnapping and being members of the Khmer Rouge, and sentenced them to 20 years in prison and ordered them to pay $10,000 in compensation to Hourth’s family. A fourth was charged and convicted only of belonging to the Khmer Rouge military, which was outlawed in 1994, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Lean Chinda, a lawyer representing Howes, and Hong Kimsoun, re­presenting Hourth, said they welcomed the decision, because they believed the convicted men were behind the kidnapping and murder.

“It is justice for my client,” said Mr Kimsoun, who previously said his client’s family was seeking $50,000 in compensation. “We will not appeal to the Supreme Court, because we do not oppose the Phnom Penh Mu­nicipal Court’s sentence.”

Defense lawyer Huong Sopheak, who was not present at the reading of the verdict, said he had not yet received information and could not comment.

Neng Vannak, press officer for po­litical affairs for the British Em­bassy, wrote in an e-mail: “We welcome the decision of the Court of Appeal…in the trial of those responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Christopher Howes and Houn Hourth. The Embassy has followed the case closely…and we were present in court during the appeal hearing and at the verdict [yesterday]. Our deepest sympathies remain with the families of the victims.”

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