For the first time since his arrest by military police last week, jailed opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy was questioned by the Military Court on Thursday over allegations of forming an illegal armed force, his lawyer said.
Investigating Judge Pok Pon questioned the lawmaker for two hours, lawyer Mao Sophearith said, adding that his client maintained innocence.
“Cheam Channy denied any involvement with establishing an illegal armed force,” Mao Sophearith said. “I think there is no evidence to prove [guilt].”
Cheam Channy was arrested Feb 4, after the National Assembly voted to strip his immunity, as well as that of opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch.
His questioning was delayed while the court arranged for Mao Sophearith to attend, Pok Pon said earlier this week.
Pok Pon said Thursday that he will announce whether to release the lawmaker today, declining further comment.
Although Sam Rainsy Party officials have said the so-called armed force that Cheam Channy is accused of heading was merely a “shadow” Cabinet to oversee military activities, retired King Norodom Sihanouk warned against the creation of such a group.
Any attempt to probe matters of national security “amounts to espionage,” Norodom Sihanouk wrote in a statement dated Sunday.
Mao Sophearith, however, said Cheam Channy’s group was set up only to investigate military corruption. “I think Cheam Channy did not interfere with the government,” he said.
In his statement, Norodom Sihanouk also urged Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch to submit proof to back up their allegedly defamatory claims against Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, which the lawyer for the two lawmakers said he will gladly do.
“I have enough evidence to prove this case,” lawyer Som Chandyna said Thursday, adding that he had documents to show the prince was involved in corruption and bribery. But, he added: “The court is biased.”
Opposition lawmakers said they plan to hold a march from their Phnom Penh party headquarters to the Military Court to protest the court’s refusal to allow Cheam Channy visitors. A date for the march has not yet been set.