The Court of Appeal on Tuesday rejected the bail request of Lem Nath, a Kompong Thom province SRP activist charged with forging thumbprints on a petition during a land dispute in Stong district’s Trea commune, court officials said.
Ms Nath was first detained on Aug 10 for allegedly counterfeiting signatures in an attempt to falsely inflate the number of signatories claiming a 323-hectare contested plot belonged to them rather than Heng Seathay and Tuok Bunthorn, who claimed ownership and were selling the land in question. Ms Nath’s alleged crime carries penalty of five years in prison or maximum fines of $2,500.
Presiding judge Chhuon Sunleng said yesterday that during Tuesday’s closed-door bail hearing the court had decided to continue detaining Ms Nath because the evidence supported the conclusion that she was guilty.
“It is only pretrial detention,” said Judge Sunleng, who declined to comment further.
Ms Nath’s lawyer, Chuo Chuongy said yesterday that the Court of Appeal had failed to produce any evidence during Tuesday’s hearing, “They have to release my client because there is not evidence to charge her for forgery.”
SRP lawmaker and party spokesman Yim Sovann said Tuesday’s decision was motivated by politics, not by a desire for justice.
“I appeal to the court to stop engaging in politics,” said Mr Sovann. “I think the Court of Appeal’s decision was unjust.”
SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said in mid-August that she would use money from her Women’s Justice Fund to pay Ms Nath’s legal fees. Though Ms Nath has not spoken publicly about the charges, her daughter has insisted on her innocence.