Chan Sophon, who was found guilty in 2012 of the February 2007 murder of Hy Vuthy, a senior leader of the Free Trade Union (FTU), faced the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday as part of his ongoing effort to have the court reinvestigate the murder and overturn his 18-year sentence.
Hy Vuthy, president of the opposition-aligned FTU at the Suntex garment factory on Veng Sreng Street, was gunned down by two men on the back of a motorcycle in the early morning as he returned home from a night shift at the factory.
In a decision that rights groups and the FTU itself derided as wrong and politically motivated, the court found Mr. Sophon guilty of the murder of the union official.
The court said Tuesday that it would reinvestigate Mr. Sophon’s case, and thus the killing of Hy Vuthy, if it were presented with evidence to support the convict’s claim that he was not in Phnom Penh when the union leader was killed.
“You must submit more new evidence to the court. Then the court will consider whether [it needs] to find justice for you and the victim,” Presiding Judge Kor Vandy said.
Mr. Sophon’s lawyer, Chea Hong Ry, reiterated his client’s long-held claim that he was at his family farm in Kandal province when Hy Vuthy was murdered, but said that they were having trouble finding witnesses who could provide an alibi.
Hy Vuthy’s killing in 2007 had followed the same pattern as the murders of two other FTU leaders three years prior.
Ros Sovannareth, an FTU activist, was shot dead by two men on a motorbike in May 2004. Chea Vichea, the FTU’s founding president, was shot in the head from close range 10 years ago today by two men who had dismounted from their motorbike.
The men convicted of the 2004 killings of the two leaders—in cases that attracted similar criticism as politically motivated—have since been freed due to a lack of evidence.
FTU President Chea Mony, brother of Chea Vichea, said he hoped Mr. Sophon’s case would also be resolved in favor of the convict, explaining that authorities as well as the municipal court had failed to investigate far more credible leads into the slaying of Hy Vuthy.
“I do not believe Chan Sophon is the real killer, because there are other suspects who were never arrested or sent to court,” Mr. Mony said. “Why was it only him?”
The court will decide whether to reinvestigate the killing of Hy Vuthy on February 6.
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