Call to Release Men Convicted of Vichea Murder

International rights organizations on Tuesday called for two men widely believed to have been falsely convicted of the 2004 murder of outspoken union leader Chea Vichea to be immediately released, ahead of the final hearing in their case at the Supreme Court today.

Chea Vichea was fatally shot in broad daylight near a newspaper stand at Wat Lanka on January 22, 2004. Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were tried and imprisoned shortly afterward but were released on bail in 2008, when the Supreme Court ordered a retrial. In De­cember, they were sent back to prison on 20-year sentences each.

Human Rights Watch said that the case should be dropped.

“Prosecutors have long conceded there was no basis for convicting the two men prosecuted for Chea Vi­chea’s murder, yet the government has persisted in this miscarriage of justice,” the group’s Asia director, Brad Adams, said in a statement.

Amnesty International called the trial “grossly unfair.”

“Considering the lack of evidence against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the serious flaws to the criminal investigation against them, and numerous violations of their right to a fair trial, Amnesty International is calling for both men to be released immediately and unconditionally,” Amnesty said in a statement.

“The human rights organization is appealing to the Cambodian authorities to free the pair from years languishing in prison for a crime they never committed,” the statement continues.

The U.N.’s International Labor Organization said that “despite the remand of the Chea Vichea case to the trial court, full, independent and impartial investigations had not been carried out into his assassination and those persons previously con­victed had been returned to pri­son without any new evidence being produced.”

The families of the convicts also appealed to authorities to release the two men.

“Please, the King [Norodom Sihamoni], Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Supreme Court, help to release my son because he did not commit this crime,” Nuon Kimsry, the mother of convict Mr. Samnang, said Tuesday.

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