The ruling CPP’s defamation case against prominent political analyst Ou Virak moved forward on Friday as the Phnom Penh Municipal Court questioned party spokesman Sok Eysan.
The CPP sued Mr. Virak for defamation late last month over an interview he gave to Radio Free Asia during which he suggested that the ruling party was using a sex scandal involving deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha to damage the opposition.
On Friday, Mr. Eysan, who signed the complaint on behalf of the party, was questioned at the municipal court ahead of the pundit’s scheduled appearance this coming week, according to Ly Sophanna, a spokesman for the court’s prosecutors.
“His Excellency Sok Eysan finished his questioning about his evidence and we see that it helps and supports the prosecutor,” Mr. Sophanna said.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, Mr. Eysan took aim at Mr. Virak’s understanding of free speech.
“Relating to Mr. Ou Virak in the interview with Radio Free Asia, it’s not his right to freedom of expression,” Mr. Eysan said.
“This was his intent and he is an intellectual. How can he not understand the right to freedom of expression or defamation? What he said was defamation against the CPP,” he said.
“Please, may the court find justice for the CPP because Mr. Ou Virak committed defamation that affected the CPP’s honor and popularity.”
Contacted by telephone, Mr. Virak said it was Mr. Eysan who had a poor understanding of free speech.
“I think the world understands freedom of expression and I think that maybe other people who advocate for freedom of expression probably agree with me and my definition, much more so than his,” Mr. Virak said, adding that public perception of the CPP’s “honor” was out of his hands.
“This is nothing to do with me, to be honest. The honor of the CPP is to be judged by the Cambodian people,” he said.
“You can’t just force that upon the population or upon critics, upon the analysts. As a politician, you have got to earn the respect and honor.”
Mr. Eysan’s court appearance comes just days after Mr. Sokha himself was summoned in a separate defamation case brought against him by political activist Thy Sovantha over disparaging comments he allegedly made about her in a private telephone conversation with a mistress.
An opposition commune chief, an election official and four employees of local rights group Adhoc have been jailed on bribery charges as part of the government’s expanding investigation into the sex scandal.