Chevron Could Disprove Defamation Charge, Rainsy Says

A joint stipulation between the lawyers of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy and U.S. oil giant Chevron, filed in a U.S. court on Friday, cites “progress in narrowing…differences” and suggests that further negotiations could “obviate the need for further intervention by the court.”

In a brief filed the day before the joint stipulation, Mr. Rainsy’s lawyers again sought to compel Chevron to provide information about the murder of political analyst Kem Ley, arguing that the information could exculpate Mr. Rainsy in a Cambodian court.

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Kem Ley’s body lies on the floor of a gas station convenience store in Phnom Penh after he was shot dead on the morning of July 10. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The former CNRP president faces a slew of legal cases in Cambodia, including a conviction for defamation in November over statements he made accusing the government of having a hand in the murder of Kem Ley, who was shot dead last July in broad daylight at a Phnom Penh Caltex gas station.

Mr. Rainsy filed the suit in a U.S. district court in December asking Chevron, which owns Caltex, to turn over the store’s surveillance footage on the day of the popular analyst’s murder. Chevron said in March that it had turned over the only copies of the tapes to Cambodian authorities, but Mr. Rainsy is also requesting a wider range of information.

Thursday’s brief asks Chevron to provide any surveillance video footage from the station where Kem Ley was shot; documents related to the surveillance videos; documents identifying employees or managers of the Caltex station; communications between Chevron and the Cambodian government relating to Kem Ley’s death; and any documents related to the shooting of Kem Ley.

The brief also appears to argue that if Chevron possesses documents that could prove the government’s involvement in Kem Ley’s murder, then Mr. Rainsy’s comments would be truthful and thus not defamatory.

“Mr. Sam will present the material evidence he obtains through these proceedings to the court of appeal [in Cambodia] to reverse his wrongful conviction,” the brief reads.

Mr. Rainsy confirmed on Sunday that his lawyer had begun the appeal process but no trial date had been set by the court. His lawyer, Sam Sokong, could not be reached.

U.K. lawyer Richard Rogers, who has submitted a separate case to the International Criminal Court to investigate Cambodia’s ruling class for, among other crimes, land grabs and political persecution, also submitted a brief in support of Mr. Rainsy’s request.

“[T]he Cambodian authorities (including the police and prosecutorial authorities) also have a history of manipulating evidence during investigations into political assassinations,” Mr. Rogers’ brief reads. He also attached as evidence a May report released by Amnesty International that slammed the government’s legal harassment of political opponents.

(Additional reporting by Rachna Thim) 

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