Court Hears Ranariddh’s Graft, Slander Suits

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.

 

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