Court: Strip Opposition Lawmaker of Immunity

Kompong Chhnang provincial authorities are demanding that an opposition lawmaker be stripped of immunity and held accountable for allegedly spiriting a de­famation suspect out of court while he was being questioned, a court official said Wednesday.

Legislator Cheam Channy has been accused of helping Moeun Mel, 40, escape from the provincial court in the middle of his interrogation, Kompong Chhnang Prosecutor Mak Pany said.

Moeun Mel, who is suspected of defaming officials at the provincial public works department, was called into the provincial court on Dec 27 to answer questions about the case, said Ing Sarun, deputy court director.

Cheam Channy and about 20 accomplices allegedly entered the room where Ing Sarun was questioning Moeun Mel and “tricked” the deputy court director into leaving the room, Ing Sarun said.

While Ing Sarun was away, Cheam Channy allegedly or­dered his accomplices to drag Moeun Mel out of the room and into a car waiting in front of the courthouse, Mak Pany said. The group then drove away, he said.

“Cheam Channy is a lawmaker, not a lawyer, and he should re­spect the court’s rights,” Mak Pany said.

Mak Pany said he sent a petition to National Assembly Presi­dent Prince Norodom Ranariddh asking the prince to strip Cheam Channy of parliamentary immunity so he can be interrogated.

“I want Prince Norodom Ra­nariddh, president of the national assembly, to strip out immunity from Cheam Channy,” Mak Pany said. “Then I will issue a warrant to question him about helping an offender leave the courthouse.”

Cheam Channy is in the US on Sam Rainsy Party matters, an opposition party official said.

Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said that Cheam Channy helped Moeun Mel leave the courthouse, but insisted the activist was being unfairly pressured by  authorities to answer questions.

“This is a new system used by the courts to intimidate Sam Rainsy Party activists,” Eng Chhay Eang said Wednesday.

Moeun Mel should not have been detained and questioned for the defamation case in the first place, he said, adding that lawmakers should not be stripped of their immunity if they are “helping activists.”

Moeun Mel is staying at the Sam Rainsy Party headquarters in Phnom Penh, Eng Chhay Eang said.


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