Supreme Court Judge Sok Setha Mony is scheduled to issue a verdict today in the trial of 28 alleged rebels accused of trying to overthrow the government last November.
The 28 men on trial, suspected of being members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, are charged with terrorism and/or membership in an armed force under Article 36 of the Untac law and Article 3 of the Cambodian terrorism state law.
One suspect—Sin Kanhapol—is being tried in absentia because he “escaped from custody” before the start of the trial, Sek Setha Mony said on Oct 22.
Since authorities detained 26 of the 28 suspects for at least seven months past their legally mandated trial date, lawyers have pressed the court to drop all charges .
“In the view of our lawyers, we feel very strongly that our clients are innocent,” said Sok Sam Ouen, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project.
The CDP is representing 10 defendants. “But we are concerned with the long detention—some have been detained for almost a year. This should influence the judge, because if the investigating judge takes so long to try the suspects, it means they lack evidence. Even the prosecutor and the police who testified said the pretrial detention was excessive.”
Although Sok Sam Ouen argued to have the charges dropped, he said the trial—by Cambodian standards—has been fair. Sok Setha Mony and the court has followed legal procedure. By international standards, however, Sok Sam Ouen said the procedure of the courts has not been good, citing again the excessive detention of his clients and lack of evidence.
During the weeklong trial, almost all the suspects denied being CFF members, claiming they were either manipulated with offers of money by CFF members or forced at gunpoint to participate in the Nov 24 attack in Phnom Penh that left at least four dead.
One defendant, Tep Simoly, testified he was a government informant working for the Ministry of Defense to gather intelligence on the CFF activity. Another defendant, Duong Sopheap, said that he brokered an immunity deal with high-ranking government officials, and that the government later reneged.
Meanwhile, CFF leaders in the US denied responsibility for six explosions near Pursat province government offices Thursday. A provincial police official has suggested the CFF was involved.