Court Upholds Murder Conviction in FTU Case

The Appeal Court on Wednesday upheld the 2005 murder conviction of Thach Saveth, who is serving a 15-year prison term for the slaying of union leader Ros Sovannareth.

Reading the court’s ruling, Appeal Court Judge Oum Sarith said by telephone that the guilty verdict stands as well as the fine of $2,000 to be paid to the victim’s family.

Defense attorney Sam Chamreun promised to continue fighting for his client’s release.

“I will appeal the grievance to the Supreme Court,” he said by telephone Wednesday.

A woman answering the telephone of Appeal Court Prosecutor Pann Kim Lean said he was not available for comment.

Thach Saveth, a former RCAF paratrooper, maintained his innocence throughout his first trial, saying he was in Siem Reap province at the time of the killing. He tried to call two witnesses to corroborate his alibi only to have the judge reject both of them.

Last week, Thach Saveth again made an emotional plea for his release, at times crying and shaking.

Free Trade Union representative Ros Sovannareth was gunned down in Phnom Penh on May 7, 2004, less than four months after FTU Presi­dent Chea Vichea was fatally shot at a newsstand. In all, three FTU leaders were shot dead between 2004 and 2007.

Local NGO Licadho issued a statement decrying the Appeal Court decision, calling the verdict “yet another example of the injustices that Cambodia’s judiciary continues to perpetuate on a regular basis.”

Evidence used to convict Thach Saveth was weak and, at times, in­consistent, the organization said, and the burden of proof was placed on the defendant.

“There is every reason to be­lieve that the case against Thach Saveth was fabricated,” the statement read.

Current FTU President Chea Mony concurred and called for a renewed inquiry into the murder.

“We want the Appeal Court, the Ministry of Justice and police to investigate this case again,” he said.

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