Court Concludes Chea Vichea Murder Appeal

The much anticipated Appeal Court hearing of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the men convicted for the 2004 killing of union leader Chea Vichea, concluded April 6 but a verdict will not be announced until April 12, Judge Saly Theara said.

Speaking to a packed court, Saly Theara said that he was too busy with meetings to give his decision any earlier.

During closing arguments, however, Prosecutor Pann Kim Lean requested that Chea Vichea’s murder case be re-investigated “in order to find the real killers.”

“There are shortcomings in the investigation,” he told the court.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were sentenced to 20 years each in August 2005 for Chea Vichea’s killing though relatives of the slain union leader and human rights groups believe the two men are innocent.

“I am not the killer—I have been waiting a long time already,” Sok Sam Oeun shouted to reporters as he was led into the courtroom at 9:30 am. “This is no different to the Khmer Rouge regime. It is an injustice,” he shouted.

During the morning session, judges and lawyers questioned the pair over Born Samnang’s signed confession obtained when he was arrested in January 2004.

Born Samnang reiterated that he had been tortured during questioning at the Tuol Kok district police station. He added that former Phnom Penh Police Chief Heng Pov had promised him that he would ask then-King Norodom Sihanouk for amnesty after one year in prison.

In the afternoon, nine witnesses for the defense faced questioning by the panel of three judges.

Vieng Thi Hong, who claimed to be Born Samnang’s wife, testified that they had left Phnom Penh for Prey Veng province on the morning Chea Vichea was killed. Born Samnang’s lawyer Chum Sovan­naly said that the evidence gathered in the case by Heng Pov, who is currently in prison for killing a judge, was now unacceptable.

Canadian and US Embassy officials attended the hearing, as well as Robert Petit, co-prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, said she was disappointed with the call for a reinvestigation and the continued de­tention of the two men.

“A new investigation means that it will go on and in the meantime [Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun] will stay in prison,” she said.


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