Embattled Commentator Kim Sok Is Denied Bail on Appeal

Kim Sok, a strident government critic in prison for blaming the ruling party for the July murder of political analyst Kem Ley, was predictably denied bail on Wednesday by the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh.

Presiding Judge Nguon Im said during a closed-door hearing that Mr. Sok needed to remain behind bars to prevent him from committing further defamation, and to allow court procedures to continue unimpeded, according to Mr. Sok’s lawyer, Chuong Choungy.

Mr. Sok, a longtime operative for royalist political parties, re-entered the political sphere last year as a frequent guest on radio shows, commenting on the news of the day.

An interview on Radio Free Asia in which he appeared to suggest that the government was behind the shooting of Kem Ley sparked a lawsuit from Prime Minister Hun Sen. On February 17, he was imprisoned on charges of defamation and incitement.

Mr. Choungy said the decision to keep his client behind bars was unreasonable, and would be appealed at the Supreme Court.

“Incitement and defamation are different to charges of murder, rape or drug trafficking,” he said of the suggestion that Mr. Sok could commit crimes again if freed.

After a previous appeal hearing, Mr. Sok claimed that representatives of the prime minister had visited him in prison and offered possible release if he wrote an apology, but also threatened to send him to a “dark prison” if he didn’t. The Interior Ministry issued a statement this week denying the accusations.

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