Court Releases Four Arrested During Clashes

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday released four of the six men who were charged with assault following violent clashes between security forces, protesters and angry commuters in Phnom Penh last month, and intends to release the remaining two men today, a rights worker said Thursday.

Sanh Samoeun, 28; Nguyen Thi Dek, 20; Song Nisai, 20; Var Noeun, 20; Tang Chongseang, 18; and Ek Chan Nu, 17, were arrested by police on the even­ing of September 15, when a day of demonstrations led by the opposition CNRP turned violent near Monivong Bridge, resulting in a 29-year-old construction worker, Mao Sok Chan, being shot dead.

“Four of the six men were re­leased on bail at 1 p.m. today on the court’s orders, but two others remain in Prey Sar [prison]: the 17-year-old and the Vietnamese man,” said Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at rights group Licadho, which has been providing legal counsel for the men.

The two men still in prison—Mr. Dek and Mr. Chan Nu—will be released today, Mr. Sam Ath said, explaining that Licadho is attempting to contact their families so they can be officially discharged.

Srun Leng, chief of Prey Sar’s Correctional Center 1, confirmed that four men were released from the prison facility Thursday.

“We released them today at noon, and there is still one man [Mr. Dek] remaining,” Mr. Leng said.

Mr. Chan Nu is in Prey Sar’s Correctional Center 2, which houses minors.

Municipal Court officials could not be reached for comment.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said that while he welcomes the release of the six men—who have now spent nearly a month in prison—the decision to free them is likely “just a way for the government to defend their image to impress the public.”

“If the political deadlock was not still a problem, they would not try to find a way to show their willingness to improve the [hu­man rights] situation,” Mr. Chhay said.

CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said the decision to release the six men was likely related to the opposition’s formal request to visit them in prison today.

“Two days ago, we wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior [asking to visit the men]…and today, they took them to the court and they were released,” Ms. Sochua said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said the ministry was in no way involved in the case.

“We don’t follow the case; it is up to the court, because it [the court] is independent,” Lt. Gen. Sopheak said.

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