Lawyers representing the accused killers of labor leader Chea Vichea filed a motion with the Appeals Court Monday to release on bail Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, who have been jailed more than four months pending a still-unscheduled Appeals Court hearing.
“We request that the court rule quickly on this case and order our clients’ release,” said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, which represents the two men. He is not related to the accused.
On March 22, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Hing Thirith dismissed the charges against the two men, citing insufficient evidence. Prosecutor Khut Sokheng appealed the ruling, and the case is now in the Appeals Court before Chief Judge Ly Vuochleng and General Prosecutor Hangrot Raken.
Shortly after dropping the charges, Hing Thirith was removed from his position as an investigating judge.
He claimed his removal was political, saying at the time that a “senior government official” ordered him to pass the case on to trial.
“The investigating judge made it clear that there is no evidence against our clients, and the prosecutor has given no reason for his appeal,” Sok Sam Oeun said.
The two suspects remain in PJ prison, trapped in what Jeffrey Kahan, a legal adviser at CDP, calls “the massive gray area that prosecutors and courts get to work within.”
Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested in late January and charged with killing Chea Vichea on Jan 22. The pair were hooded, handcuffed and paraded before reporters Jan 29, when they proclaimed their innocence and said police had beaten them.
The next day, however, Born Samnang told reporters he shot Chea Vichea for $5,000. Witnesses have said Born Samnang was celebrating in Prey Veng province when the shooting occurred.