Convicted JI Militants Plead Innocence to Court

Three convicted conspirators in a 2003 plot to bomb the British and US embassies in Phnom Penh protested their innocence at the Supreme Court Wednesday, saying their convictions were based on scant evidence and that their own statements used against them were illegitimate.

Presiding Judge Khim Ponn said after the five-hour hearing that the Supreme Court would announce its ruling on March 12.

The Appeal Court in 2006 confirmed the 2004 life sentences of Thai nationals Abdul Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mad­ing and Cambodian Sman Esma El, who were found guilty of conspiring in the plot with the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Prosecutor Chhuon Chantha told the courtroom that the convicts had freely confessed to their crimes.

“Today’s testimony cannot re­verse the charges. The Phnom Penh [municipal court] and Ap­peal Court convictions were correct,” he said.

However, speaking through an interpreter, Abdul Haji Chiming told the court that a video compact disc reportedly found in his possession and containing bomb-making instructions did not belong to him. He also denied claims that he told his interrogators that the VCD be­longed to him.

“May Allah damn me and my seventh generation if I colluded in terrorism. May Allah damn those who charge me and their blood ties to misfortune,” he said.

He then wept and called on the judges to release all three suspects.

His wife Ar Sos Ar-Esoh said she wanted him transferred to Thai custody.

Muhammad Yalaludin Mading said his statements to police had been made in the absence of a lawyer. “I was convicted on the order of top officials,” he claimed.

Cham Muslim Sman Esma El said his interrogators had plied him with money and the promise of a government position in exchange for confessing in the absence of any evidence.

“I don’t know what I did wrong,” he added.

Defense lawyer Kao Soupha said his three clients had made no attempt to commit any act of terrorism and were convicted based in part on a report by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which in fact did not implicate the three men.

A Thai consular official observed the proceedings but declined to comment.

“Let’s wait until March 12,” he said.

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