Appeals Court Judge Thou Mony summoned 13 alleged rebels, one by one, before the Appeals Court Monday morning and asked if they wanted the counsel of lawyers.
They all answered, yes.
The hearing was then postponed until the appellants—accused members of the outlawed Cambodian Freedom Fighters, and convicted of terrorism and organized crime—can obtain legal counsel. A court official present at the brief hearing said: “The judge decided to postpone because [Cambodian Defenders Project, a free legal aid NGO] did not send their lawyers to defend their clients. The CDP said they had no funds.” The official, who declined to be named, added: “This is a criminal case, and, according to the requests of the suspects, the judge postponed.”
The official said the Appeals Court sent a letter to the Cambodian Bar Association asking it to provide lawyers for the 13 people.
So far, he said, the Appeals Court has gotten no response.
Ky Tech, Cambodian Bar Association president, confirmed Monday that the letter had reached his office. “It is not in my hands yet, because everybody is busy moving our administration to a new location. But I will consider this case,” he said.
Ky Tech said his organization could likely help out, because the cases are being heard in Phnom Penh. Were they heard anywhere that required lawyers to travel, assistance from the Bar Association would be out of the question.
Like many state-funded bodies in the post-election standoff, the Bar Association is running out of money, Ky Tech said.
An official at CDP’s office in Battambang, where the alleged rebels were tried and have been imprisoned for two years, said that his organization had not been asked to represent any of the CFF suspects on Monday.
Bun Rithy said that CDP represented only two of the CFF suspects at their March 2002 trial and had not been retained.
Ly Vouch Leng, chief of the Appeals Court, did not respond to questions from a reporter who tried to inquire by telephone about Monday’s hearing.