CIA Interrogates Jailed Muslim Teachers

Officials with the US Central Intelligence Agency visited Cam­bodia recently to interrogate three Muslim teachers who are be­ing held on sus­picion of terrorism links, Gen­eral Sok Phal, director of the In­terior Ministry’s Information Department, said Thursday.

“The US CIA and the Cam­bodian police have been coop­erating on the investigation of this case,” he said. “We’ve found some evidence and other things, but I cannot speak about them,” he added.

The suspects’ attorney, Kao Sophal, said Thursday that the CIA visited his clients—one Egyptian and two Thai nationals—in mid-June to ask them about the origin and application of funds directed to the Islamic religious school in Kandal province that employed them as teachers.

According to Kao Sophal, the suspects—Esam Mohammed Khidr Ali, 41; Abdul Azi Haji Chiming, 35, and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading, 41—told their in­terviewers that between $40,000 and $50,000 was transferred monthly to a bank in Phnom Penh from the Om-Alqura Institute’s headquarters in Saudi Arabia.

They said the money paid for the study and accommodation of about 600 boys at the mosque and school.

The Om-Alqura Institute, along with a smaller brother school, was shuttered shortly after the arrests of the three teachers in late May.

Kao Sophal added that the CIA and Interior Ministry police do not have jurisdiction in this case since it has been submitted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where investigating judges should be in charge of it.

“If the CIA and police want to investigate, they should ask for authorization from the Municipal Court,” he said.

Kao Sophal also said that police had confiscated $10,000, a car, documents and other belongings of his clients that have not yet been registered with the court.

Sok Phal could not be reached again Thursday to answer these charges.

US Embassy spokeswoman Heide Bronke said Thursday that she was not aware of the CIA being involved in the investigation.

A Thai Embassy official, who declined to be named, also said Thursday that he did not know anything about the CIA investigating the Thai nationals.


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