The Appeal Court on Wednes-day upheld the decision of the Pur-sat court to release four men de-tained over a land dispute and to send the case back to its point of or-igin, Banteay Meanchey province.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice launched an inspection of Top Chansereyvuth, the Pursat prosecutor who handled the case and also allegedly stood to gain in the land dispute, officials said.
“I released them on bail and transferred this base back to Ban-teay Meanchey provincial court to investigate and hear again,” said Appeal Court Judge Saly Theara.
Mom Sarun, 47, Choum Chan-than, 45, Chea Sitha, 53, and Chhor Touch, 48, were released Wednes-day, Pursat court Director Tol Vorn said. They stand accused of des-troying a fence and GPS device in a 2008 protest over a decade-long land dispute with the National Agriculture Development Associa-tion in the O’Chrou district of Ban-teay Meanchey. Nine others also charged in the case but still at large were also granted bail.
The case was moved to Pursat by order of Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana, who has not re-sponded to multiple requests for comment this week. The case followed Top Chansereyvuth, formerly a judge in Banteay Meanchey before he became the prosecutor in charge of the case in Pursat. According to a 2001 internal NADA document, Top Chansereyvuth was slated to receive 2 hectares of the disputed land.
Top Chansereyvuth said by telephone Thursday that he did not know about the detainees’ release and hung up when asked about his 2-hectare stake in the case.
On order from the minister, in-spectors from the Ministry of Jus-tice were scrutinizing cases at the Pursat court Monday through Wednesday, said Justice Ministry undersecretary of state Keut Rith.
“We inspected the Pursat court and a case involving Top Chan-sereyvuth, and the inspector will release the results soon,” he said, declining to comment further.
Banteay Meanchey Prosecutor So Vath said that Justice Ministry investigators had also surveyed documents related to the land dispute.
The 2001 NADA paper names 13 other officials slated to receive plots of the disputed land, including Funcinpec Secretary-General and Deputy Prime Minister Nhiek Bun Chhay and Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha.
SRP President Sam Rainsy, whose party has an alliance with the HRP, said he would wait for a full investigation before pronouncing himself on his ally’s alleged involvement in the land dispute.
(Additional reporting by Isabelle Roughol)