A judge postponed the start of a defamation trial against National Election Committee official Ny Chakrya on Monday after the two Siem Reap court officials who brought the case against him failed to show up at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Proceedings lasted a mere half hour before Presiding Judge Khy Chhay ordered the continuance. He also allowed Mr. Chakrya, the committee’s deputy secretary-general, to file a complaint requesting a new judge after the defendant challenged the propriety of court procedures.
“The court has decided to postpone this hearing and let you file a complaint challenging the judge within one month,” Judge Chhay said, adding that hearings would continue if no complaint was filed.
In court on Monday, Mr. Chakrya said a postponement was necessary to protect his rights. “Because the civil plaintiffs did not appear, I will lose my right to hear the testimonies of the civil plaintiffs,” he said.
The defamation suit against Mr. Chakrya concerns comments he made in his previous role as the head of monitoring for rights group Adhoc about the imprisonment of two Siem Reap farmers convicted of illegally clearing land in the province’s Varin district.
Mr. Chakrya argued at the time that Siem Reap Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Sok Keobandith and Investigating Judge Ky Rithy had improperly handled the farmers’ case and wrongly convicted them.
That same month, Mr. Chakrya was accused of defamation, malicious denunciation in criticizing the court officials and attempting to coerce them into changing the verdict.
During Monday’s hearing, he argued that Mr. Keobandith and Judge Rithy should both be required to appear in court to testify. Additionally, he said the defamation suit should not proceed until a decision was made over his complaint filed on the farmers’ behalf.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin could not be reached.
Deputy prosecutor Seang Sok said the plaintiffs had been summoned to the court and were represented by their lawyer, but acknowledged Judge Chhay’s right to postpone the hearing.