Court Seeks More Evidence in Slain Judge Case

An investigating judge has asked police to bolster evidence that members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters plotted and carried out the killing of Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sok Sethamony.

Police arrested Mol Meat, 41, and Chhun Chetra, 36, in early November and alleged that they were members of the CFF, a US-based anti-communist group blamed for the November 2000 at­tack on government buildings in Phnom Penh. A third suspect, Chhum Chaly, 26, was arrested in connection to the judge’s killing but was later released.

Investigating Judge Kim Sophorn said Wednesday that police must submit more evidence after an eyewitness who gave police physical descriptions of the attackers denied ever seeing the detained suspects.

“If we release these men, there will be a strong reaction from the police,” Kim Sophorn said. “We are doing our best to avoid that re­action.”

Sok Sethamony presided over many high-profile cases, including the 2001 trials of CFF members who took part in the Nov 2000 attack. The judge, 42, was gunned down in April by two unidentified men on a motorbike.

Evidence submitted to the court includes mention of the suspects on a computer hard drive confiscated from Richard Kiri Kim, a Cambodian-American and alleged CFF ringleader whom Sok Sethamony sentenced to life imprisonment.

Images from the hard drive show gold plaques naming the suspects as CFF operatives; Chhun Chetra is referred to as “The Popcorn Strategist,” and Mol Meat as “The Popcorn Activist.” The plaques are dated Nov 27, 1999, and signed by CFF leader Chhun Yasith, an accountant based in Long Beach, in the US state of California.

Medical staff who examined the prisoners three days after their arrest reported that they had marks indicating they were hit, kicked and beaten with sticks, according to a consultant at Lic­adho.

Chhun Chetra and Mol Meat both served time in prison for their role in a rocket attack on a Sokimex gas station in 1999.


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