Court Denies Bail to Khmer National Liberation Front Members

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday rejected a bail request made by 10 imprisoned members of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF) —a political advocacy group that opposes the ruling CPP—citing a need for further investigation.

The 10 KNLF members were arrested in October and charged with inciting violence over the distribution of allegedly incendiary literature and a planned protest outside the Vietnamese Embassy.

In a closed-door hearing at the Appeal Court on Tuesday, Judge Phou Povsun upheld a decision to keep the men in prison pending trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

“[We] upheld the verdict against bail, because we have still not finished the processes of the investigation,” Judge Povsun said by telephone after the hearing. “So we need to find the evidence to inculpate or exculpate them first.”

Judge Povsun said the 10 men could still appeal to the Supreme Court if they wished, but suggested such an appeal could delay court proceedings to bring them to trial.

“If they don’t accept, they can appeal, but if they accept, the court will continue to process its investigation,” he said.

On April 21, the men decided to have their bail request heard by the Appeal Court without the presence of their lawyer, Choung Choungy, who at the time was busy at the municipal court.

“They were anxious to get justice, so they didn’t wait for me,” Mr. Choungy said Tuesday. “They should have waited.”

The dissidents—Liv Yi, 30; Khun Nakong, 29; Chhun Chhat, 30; Chrach Much, 24; Lat Liheng, 22; Chan Sna, 27; Chhim Smak, 57; An Chann, 35; Chan Ra, 23; and Chhay Vit, 40—are mostly laborers and farmers, and were initially accused of trying to topple the government last year.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has personally labeled the KNLF a terrorist group, and its leader, Sam Serey, who lives in self-imposed exile in Denmark, has been accused of involvement in a 2009 bomb plot in Phnom Penh.

A separate group of 13 KNLF members are presently appealing prison sentences for plotting to overthrow the government, which were handed down in April last year following a 15-minute trial at the municipal court.

After their hearing at the Appeal Court on Tuesday, the 10 members arrested in October shouted “injustice” as they were led by police to a room to await transfer back to Prey Sar prison.

One called on Mr. Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy to intervene in their case amid their political detente.

“I hope that Samdech [Hun Sen] and His Excellency Sam Rainsy will continue their ‘culture of dialogue’ to release us,” said Mr. Liheng, the youngest of the group.

“The culture of dialogue finished the political crisis, so why are we patriots still in prison?” he added. “Our case is a political case, so we should be released.”

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