Court Postpones Sam Rainsy’s Appeal After Walkout

The Court of Appeal yesterday postponed a scheduled hearing on the case of opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two jailed villagers convicted in January of uprooting temporary border posts, after the appellants’ lawyers boycotted the hearing.

Mr Rainsy’s lawyer, Chuong Chuongy, and the two villagers’ lawyer, Sam Sokong, walked out of the courtroom when they found out that the villagers had not been transported from Svay Rieng Provincial Prison to speak as witnesses.

Mr Sokong requested that the court ensure that all plaintiffs are invited to be present at their hearing. “According to the law, the Court of Appeal has to invite them to attend the hearing on time,” he said, before leaving the courtroom.

Mr Choungy said he supported the request for a postponement, saying that the villagers’ testimony was vital. “The two prisoners are important to my client Sam Rainsy, because they are strong witnesses,” he said.

Mr Rainsy was convicted in January on charges of damaging public property and racial incitement after he led a group of Svay Rieng province villagers in uprooting six temporary border demarcation posts during a protest. Villagers Prum Chea and Meas Srey were also convicted of destruction of property and are currently serving out one-year jail sentences.

Khun Leangmeng, chief judge at the Court of Appeal, said yesterday that the court had decided to postpone the appeal hearing to a later date, which has not yet been set.

“The Court of Appeal has postponed this case, according to the defense lawyers’ requests and to avoid criticism of the government,” Mr Leangmeng told the court.

The decision came despite an earlier request from Svay Rieng district governor Chea Yieng’s lawyer Chan Sok Yieng for the court to continue its hearing. Mr Yieng is a civil party to the case.

“The court could hear this case, and I please ask the Court of Appeal to hear this case,” said Mr Sok Yieng, adding that the Mr Sokong could represent his absent clients.

“The…lawyer’s request to postpone this case will delay the time that their client is in prison,” Mr Sok Yieng added.

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