The Appeals Court rejected opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy’s request to be released on bail Monday because he is accused of a serious crime affecting matters of national security, a judge present at the hearing said.
“It concerns national security, [and there are] many issues involved,” Appeals Court Judge You Bung Leng said after the hearing.
He added that the investigation into Cheam Channy, who is charged with forming a so-called illegal armed force, is still in progress.
Appeals Court Judge Thou Mony agreed, saying: “We are worried that he would destroy evidence…and run away.”
Cheam Channy was arrested Feb 3, shortly after a controversial National Assembly decision to strip him and fellow opposition lawmakers Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch of their parliamentary immunity.
While Cheam Channy has since been detained at the military court, Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch have been traveling around the world, seeking support from donors to free their jailed colleague and return to parliament.
Sam Rainsy Party officials say that Cheam Channy was head of their party’s committee designed to monitor RCAF activities and deny allegations that he was creating an illegal armed force.
Speaking to reporters at the court after the hour-long hearing, Cheam Channy decried the Appeals Court decision, saying his detention is illegal. Since he is not a military officer, he said, he should not be held at the military court.
“I am illegally detained. The decision is unfair,” Cheam Channy said, though added that he was not mistreated in detention.
He also appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and the international community to help him get out of jail.
Cheam Channy’s lawyer Mao Sophearith said his client was sent directly back to the military court following the hearing.
Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general to the Sam Rainsy Party, said Monday that 21 fellow opposition lawmakers had offered to be Cheam Channy’s guarantors, all volunteering to go to jail if the parliamentarian fled.
Eng Chhay Eang also blasted the Appeals Court decision, saying the hearing was “perfunctory.”
He noted that the same court freed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew, Nhim Sophea, who had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter for a notorious October 2003 car crash and shooting that left three innocent people dead and four injured.
In contrast, Eng Chhay Eang asked: “Is there anyone who has died because of Cheam Channy?”
Judge Thou Mony, however, dismissed criticism of the Appeals Court decision.
“It is normal that a loser always says ‘unfair,’” he said.