CFF Suspect Alleges Police Brutality at Trial

Allegations of police brutality and coercion were heard Thurs­day at the first day of the trial of 27 men accused of taking part in a failed attack against the government in November.

The Supreme Court originally scheduled 28 alleged members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters to be put on trial for terrorism and membership in an armed group. Neither Prosecutor Nget Sarath nor Judge Sok Sethamony could account for the absence of the 28th suspect.

Twenty of the suspects face terrorism charges, while the remaining seven were charged only with membership in an armed group.

The first defendant to testify, Sok Sam, is accused of aiding the anti-government CFF during the November attack by delivering food and supplies to CFF fighters during the raid, which left at least four dead.

The 27-year-old man testified that unknown CFF members forced him at gunpoint to deliver food to the fighting rebels. He also testified that the municipal police beat him into confessing that he was involved in the raid.

“The municipal police pointed a gun behind my ear and let me smoke a cigarette, then they beat me and forced me to confess,” Sok Sam said.

An official from the municipal police denied the charge at the trial. The official said Sok Sam was interviewed in front of radio and television media, and therefore could not have been beaten without a huge public outcry.

Four suspects testified Thurs­day and while Sok Sam was the only one who said police beat him, all four denied membership in the CFF and claimed that CFF members forced them—either by gunpoint or manipulation—to attack in November.

Tob Cheat, the second defendant to testify, said an acquaintance invited him on November 23—one day before the attack—to travel from his home in Kom­pong Cham province to Phnom Penh for a job that would pay 7,000 riel (about $1.75).

The acquaintance allowed him to stay at a house near the Phnom Penh train station when he arrived on Nov 24, Tob Cheat said. He was at the house for only a few hours before CFF members came to the house, handed him a gun and forced him to march down Russian Boulevard and fire shots at the Council of Ministers building, he said.

Tob Cheat’s testimony was echoed by Phy Sovann and Sann Chantha, the third and fourth defendants to testify. Both said they were from Kompong Cham and were lured to Phnom Penh by CFF members with offers of good jobs. Both men testified that CFF members forced them at gunpoint to take part in the raids.

Phy Sovann, who testified he was “so drunk” he didn’t realize the armed CFF members were firing bullets and rockets at the Ministry of Defense, said the unknown CFF rebels forced him to carry a B-40 rocket throughout the attack. Eventually, he said one of the younger rebels took the rocket from him and told him to go home because he was so intoxicated.

Throughout the trial, members from human rights NGOs questioned whether all the defendants had access to legal representation, and questioned whether lawyers had adequate access to their clients.

Sok Sam Ouen, executive director of the Cambodia De­fen­ders Project, said lawyers from the CDP—who are defending 11 of the suspects—have interviewed their clients only two or three times and recently had trouble gaining access to them.

Tien Mee, mother of accused CFF member Men Chey, said she was confident her son was not a rebel. One of only a handful of family members of the accused who attended the trial, she said her son was a construction worker who was walking home late at night when he was forced by the CFF members to accompany the armed insurgents.

“My son is a construction work­er. He is not involved with the CFF,” Tien Mee said.

 

 

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