Court: RCAF Officer Battered Wife’s Associate

An RCAF colonel was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Monday of intentionally causing injury to an associate of his wife, but he was given a sentence shorter than his pretrial detention, making his imminent release likely.

Originally arrested in March for attempted murder, Chhor Dara, 44, was sentenced on reduced charges to a year in prison, with all but three months and 13 days suspended, and ordered to pay $4,931 in compensation.

Local rights group Licadho on Monday denounced the punishment as insufficient.

“Licadho deplores the weak sentence given to Chhor Dara and urges the prosecutor to appeal the verdict,” the group said in a statement.

Chhor Dara was suspended as Kandal province’s deputy military police commander in 2001 following accusations he broke a waitress’ leg.

Chem Sopheap, 35, testified in court that Chhor Dara had invited her on March 15 to his Russei Keo district home.

“He pushed my head to the floor and put his foot on my neck and he shot,” she said, adding that the bullet had grazed her. “I saw the blood on the floor.”

Chhor Dara denied that he had attempted to shoot Chem Sopheap, saying he had only struck her for allegedly taking his wife to meet a lover.

Two witnesses testified that, from outside Chhor Dara’s home, they had not heard any gunshot or seen any beating.

Chhor Dara’s maid Chheang Mom said she had seen no blood.

In ordering that Chhor Dara’s sentence be applied from the March-26 start of his pretrial detention, Judge Chan Madina said that Chem Sopheap’s injuries would not cause her lasting damage.

Deputy Prosecutor Kry Sok Y said after the trial that he had not yet decided whether to appeal but that the punishment was sufficiently stiff.

In the absence of any appeal, Chhor Dara would be released for the time he had already served, he added.

Licadho claimed Monday that Chhor Dara is the brother-in-law of RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Meas Sophea.

Meas Sophea could not be reached Monday while Kar Savuth, a defense lawyer for Chhor Dara, said he was unaware of whether his client was related to Meas Sophea.

 

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