Cambodian Center for Human Rights Director Kem Sokha appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday to answer questions related to a defamation lawsuit filed against him by National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Also on Monday, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay was questioned at the court as a witness in opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s lawsuit against Prince Ranariddh over alleged corruption in the awarding of the contract to construct the new National Assembly.
Kem Sokha is accused of defaming Prince Ranariddh on a radio broadcast last August in relation to allegations that the prince accepted an aircraft in return for leading Funcinpec into a coalition with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP.
“My comment was a political opinion: Nobody can be charged for expressing their political opinion,” Kem Sokha told reporters.
Investigating Judge Thong Ol declined to comment on Monday.
According to a copy of his testimony, Kem Sokha said he had received copies of a decision transferring an airplane to Prince Ranariddh dated May 17, 2004, and signed by Hun Sen.
Based on this document, Kem Sokha said his comments on the aircraft were “an expression of opinion on the political situation of our country.”
Kem Sokha denies the accusation of defamation, according to his testimony.
In his testimony on the new Assembly building construction deal, Son Chhay alleged that the Ly Chhuon company, which won the controversial contract, is owned by the son-in-law of CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, chairman of the Assembly’s banking and finance committee and head of the committee formed to oversee the construction of the new building.
“I am a witness because I received a complaint from one company saying that there were irregularities in constructing the new Assembly,” Son Chhay said.
He said the $27 million contract awarded to Ly Chhuon exceeded another bid by about $13 million.
Cheam Yeap turned off his telephone when contacted Monday.
Prosecutor Nget Sarat said the court will question Ly Chhuon next week.