Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday convicted a 49-year-old member of the so-called Tiger Head movement for masterminding a 2007 attempt to blow up the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument, court officials said.
The court sentenced Som Ek to 18 years in prison, reduced to 16 years and six months because he has spent 18 months in provisional detention, Presiding Judge Sous Sam Ath said as he read the verdict.
“Som Ek is the man behind planning the bomb attacks at the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument,” Judge Sam Ath read.
On July 29, 2007, a small explosive device went off at the monument, while two other bombs there failed to explode. During the trial the prosecution claimed Mr Ek was involved with a terrorist group known as the Tiger Head Movement, financed by foreign-based Cambodian nationals.
Mr Ek was arrested in January 2009 over his alleged involvement in a second bombing attempt, when police found three explosive devices outside the Defense Ministry.
At the same time, Mr Ek was charged as an accomplice in the 2007 incident.
Following his arrest, Mr Ek allegedly confessed to paying $500 to another alleged Tiger Head member, Sok Kim Sovath, to carry out the monument attack.
Mr Ek claimed he confessed because he was afraid for his family’s safety and has maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
Mr Kim Sovath was convicted in Aug 2008 of carrying out the attack and sentenced to 16 years.
Interviewed after the trial, Mr Ek said he felt the sentence was too severe, and compared it to the one handed down in July to Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, the chief of the Khmer Rouge secret police.
“Duch killed more than 10,000 people but he [was sentenced to] only 19 years in jail. I killed no one but I am sentenced to 18 years,” he said.
Im Socheat, Mr Ek’s lawyer, said his client was not involved in terrorism and would appeal.
“I cannot accept the decision of the panel of judges because it is not justice for him, and I will appeal,” he said.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, said the ministry agreed with the sentence.
“The decision of the court is suitable for terrorism,” he said.