A judge yesterday told court officials that he would further extend the detention of four senior staffers of rights group Adhoc and an election official who already have been jailed for nearly a year without trial, in a case that has drawn international criticism from human rights defenders.
This week marks a year since the four Adhoc officers and a former Adhoc employee, National Election Committee (NEC) official Ny Chakrya, were charged and detained over bribery accusations related to a government investigation of an alleged sex scandal involving opposition leader Kem Sokha. The accused say they were providing legal services to a witness, Mr. Sokha’s alleged mistress.
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded last year that the five “have been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders, and in violation of their right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law” under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Investigating Judge Theam Chan Piseth told Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Y Rin yesterday that the five prisoners would be detained for an extended period “to fulfill the process of additional questioning,” Mr. Rin said. Another six months of detention would be allowed by law.
Judge Chan Piseth extended the prisoners’ provisional detention by six months in October, also citing the need for further investigation. Mr. Rin, the court spokesman, said this morning that the court is “not closing the investigation yet.”
The judge is “still continuing the procedure in order to additionally extend [provisional detention],” he said. “The judge is taking action according to procedure.”
Lawyers for the five have said court officials were not working fast enough to finish the investigation.
“During the six months of pretrial detention, the investigating judge did not try, and the court did not investigate according to the set time,” Sam Sokong, the lawyer representing Mr. Chakry, said in October. “Six months of detention should be enough.”
Also this morning, Lor Chunthy, attorney for the four Adhoc staffers, said he visited his four clients in Prey Sar prison and was told by a prison official that they had received summonses to appear in court tomorrow.
“They say that they got the information from the court already. They invited my clients to go to the court tomorrow and I understand that these summonses must be summonses about extension [of provisional detention],” Mr. Chunthy said. He had not seen the summonses, but said if the court extends his clients’ detention, it will be for another six months.
For the past five or six months, there had been little pursuit of an investigation, he said.
“If they extend the investigation, there should be action in the investigation,” he said. “If we have not seen any investigation, what is the extension for?”