Court Denies Bail for Assassination Suspects

The Appeals Court on Wednes­day rejected bail for the two suspects accused of killing union leader Chea Vichea, as their law­yers decried their continued confinement as unlawful.

Judge Samrith Sophal an­nounced his decision to keep suspects Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun in jail on Wednesday mor­ning, upholding an Oct 27, 2004, Municipal Court decision to bar their release, according to court clerk Ly Neardey.

“This morning’s announcement was official,” Ly Neardey said. Nei­ther suspect was present in court as no transportation was avail­­able to bring them from PJ pri­son, where they remain, she said.

Samrith Sophal said the suspects could not be released be­cause the municipal court invest­i­ga­t­ing judge is still conducting his probe, said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian De­fenders Project, whose lawyers are defending the suspects. Sok Sam Oeun is not related to the suspect of the same name.

The judge also said he was concerned that the suspects could flee if they were freed, and that the se­verity of the charges prohibited their release, Sok Sam Oeun said.

“Our law says clearly that the pre-trial detention is only six months, but the court never re­spects [that],” Sok Sam Oeun said. He added that the CDP lawyers would contest the Appeals Court de­cision at the Supreme Court.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested days after the Jan 22, 2004, shooting of Chea Vi­chea. Several witnesses testified that they were not near the scene of the killing, while Hing Thirith, the original investigating judge on the case, dropped char­ges against them in March 2004, citing lack of evidence. Hing Thirith was re­moved days la­ter. Upon his re­mo­val, he told re­porters that an un­named high-rank­ing official had tried to influence the case.

Born Samnang’s mother, Nuon Kim Srei, said she was devastated by the decision. “My son is not Chea Vichea’s killer,” she said.


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