The Appeals Court on Thursday denied bail to Mam Sonando, the jailed owner of Beehive Radio, after a hearing in which the court was told by a government lawyer that defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen was not the same as defaming an ordinary citizen.
Presiding Judge Saly Theara rejected Mam Sonando and his lawyer’s promises that he would neither flee the country nor interrupt the investigation, and arguments that he should only be facing misdemeanor, not criminal, charges.
“The verdict of Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s investigating judge to detain [Mam Sonando] is legally correct, and it is upheld,” Saly Theara said.
“The Appeals Court understands that in this case, the investigation has just begun,” he said.
As Saly Theara finished reading the decision, Mam Sonando told him he would appeal to the Supreme Court for bail. His lawyer, Hong Kimsuon, later confirmed that they had appealed the decision.
Lawyer Doung Loeung, who on behalf of the prime minister filed the complaints of defamation and inciting people to commit crimes, also announced Thursday that he had brought an additional complaint of broadcasting false information against Mam Sonando on Oct 27.
Doung Loeung argued in court that Mam Sonando’s broadcast had incited six people to act against Hun Sen, so he should be remanded in prison until trial.
“He defamed the government’s head, who is the prime minister, so it is not a light case,” Doung Loeung said.
“It is a misdemeanor case only when it affects normal people,” he added.
Emphasizing that criticizing Hun Sen is not child’s play, Doung Loeung added: “[Mam Sonando] is not a young boy sucking a finger. He is already old.”
Cambodia Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun said he was not surprised by the verdict.
“It has become the custom of the Cambodian court to detain people after they get arrested,” he said.
Mam Sonando denied the charges against him as he was quickly pushed into a car by prison guards.