Election Killers Convicted, Some in Absentia

The Kompong Cham provincial court Friday convicted one of the men accused of killing a Fun­cinpec commune candidate and Sam Rainsy Party activist to eight years in prison but acquitted the two other men, a court official said.

In a surprise turn of events, the court also convicted in absentia two military officials who are still at large for the killings and sentenced them to 18 years, said Khieu San, the judge presiding over the trial.

Khieu San sentenced Yun Sam­oeun Thursday to eight years for his role in the killing of Funcinpec commune candidate Thon Phally and Sam Rainsy Party activist Phuong Sophat, both of whom were shot less than two hours apart on Nov 14 in Sro­lop commune.

The judge also convicted and sentenced in absentia Yun Tony, a military official, and Chan Ratha, the deputy commander of submilitary region of Tbong Khmum district, despite the fact that the court introduced little concrete evidence during Thurs­day’s trial showing that either man was involved in the killing.

Khieu San also acquitted Eang Veth and Lang Sarin for the kil­lings, even though the widow of Funcinpec candidate Thon Phally identified Eang Veth as her husband’s killer during Thursday’s trial.

On Thursday, many witnesses for the prosecution testified to having seen Yun Samoeun, Eang Veth and Lang Sarin driving through Srolop commune with Yun Tony and Chan Ratha on the night of the shootings.

The three men admitted Thurs­­day to driving through the commune, testifying that Chan Ratha and Yun Tony were armed and leading the gang through the commune, but were not involved in the killings.

The judgments drew heavy fire from one UN observer.

“I don’t think justice has been found for the victims’ families,” said Adrian Edwards, an election analyst for the UN. “Serious questions remain in the case, such as whether all the evidence against the accused had been introduced by the court and why the authorities have not been able to arrest the two men still at large.”

Although Edwards praised the court for following proper legal procedure throughout the trial until the verdict, he said the decision could influence the national elections, slated for July 2003.

 

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