The Supreme Court on Wednesday began closed-door hearings in the appeal of eight men convicted for their roles in the 2000 attacks on the capital by an anti-government group known as the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, court officials said.
Convicted with 10 others in March 2002, the eight were among 13 who had their sentences upheld by the Appeal Court in 2005, but who are now protesting their innocence to the nation’s highest court, Prosecutor Chuon Sun Leng said.
In clashes lasting eight hours, the CFF in November 2000 led attacks on government buildings, including the Defense Ministry, which left several of their own members dead and about a dozen police officers wounded.
Alleged CFF mastermind Chhun Yasith was arrested in California in 2005 and is awaiting trial on federal conspiracy charges.
Only six of Wednesday’s appellants appeared in court for the hearing, which is to conclude today, said Chuon Sun Leng, adding that one convict, Hang Nhorn, had died in Kompong Cham provincial prison.
Defense lawyer Kao Ty said that four of the men—serving sentences of eight to 16 years on terrorism charges—had testified Wednesday and maintained that they are innocent.
“They asked for their release,” he said. “They said they didn’t do anything.” Kao Ty added that no evidence was presented during the hearing Wednesday.
Supreme Court Judge Mong Monichariya declined to discuss the evidence present in the case file and said he was unaware of how Hang Nhorn had died.
After repeated delays, the trial of Chhun Yasith is now scheduled to come before the US District Court in Los Angeles on March 11, according to the US Attorney’s office for central California.
The court in September dismissed a pretrial motion by the defense to have some of the charges dropped on the grounds that Cambodia was not “at peace” with the US when the attacks occurred.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)