The Supreme Court on Tuesday began a three-day hearing to re-examine a trio of cases involving disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who was convicted of a slew of crimes by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and is currently serving a 98-year prison sentence.
Mr. Pov’s 15-minute testimony Tuesday was ostensibly related only to his conviction in 2006 for the murder of municipal court Judge Sok Sethamony in 2003.
Hearings over his 2008 conviction for colluding in a 2005 attack that left an Electricite du Cambodge official paralyzed and the 2008 conviction for conspiracy to murder national military police commander Sao Sokha in 2003 are scheduled for today and Thursday.
Wearing a crisp orange prison uniform and sporting a tidy haircut, Mr. Pov on Tuesday put forth an energetic synopsis of alleged corruption, collusion and power struggles among the Ministry of Interior’s top brass that led to what he said was a string of bogus convictions against him.
“I did not [kill Judge Sok Sethamony]. It was pinned on me by other police officials who want to hurt me,” he said, naming his rivals at the time, including former National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy, who died in a helicopter crash in 2008, and Mok Chito, who remains the director of the Interior Ministry’s central judicial department.
Mr. Pov said he and his officers had been close to solving Judge Sethamony’s murder and believed he had been killed for helping a woman who had filed a divorce case with the court. But in the midst of the investigation, he said, the military police arrested three men unknown to him and charged them with murder.
But the men were released, and in August 2006, when the municipal court first issued a warrant for Mr. Pov’s arrest, he learned that the judge’s murder had been added to a litany of charges against him, which he said were fabricated by Hok Lundy.
“At about midnight on January 10, 2005, I got a very stern call from Samdech [Prime Minister] Hun Sen asking me why [I] was angry with Dy [Hok Lundy]. And I told him that I wasn’t angry with Hok Lundy and didn’t know what he was referring to,” Mr. Pov told the Supreme Court.
Mr. Pov said the prime minister also told him he had been informed that Mr. Pov had been planning to pass the U.S. Embassy information about the Vietnamese military’s secret operations in Cambodia.
“But I told him I didn’t know anything about this,” he said.
Mr. Pov also accused Lieutenant General Chito, of the central judicial department, of using his power to influence the court’s decisions against him.
“The people who have conspired to hurt me have almost all died; the only one remaining is Mok Chito,” he said.
Another former police officer convicted alongside Mr. Pov over the murder of Judge Sok Sethamony, former municipal minor crimes deputy police chief Ly Rasy, told the Supreme Court he had been tortured in an attempt to force him to testify that Mr. Pov had ordered the murder.
“I was kept naked and in chains for almost a year in Prey Sar prison so that it was difficult to even pee,” Mr. Rasy said. “During this time, Mok Chito came to visit me and tried to get me to say that Mr. Pov ordered the murder, but I wouldn’t say it.”
Mr. Pov told the court that if the judges failed to overturn his convictions, he would file a complaint to the National Assembly and the U.N., asking the bodies to make public the evidence that was used to convict him.
Speaking to journalists after the hearing, Mr. Pov said Cambodians would realize once he was gone that he had been a good man and the best police chief they ever had.
“If the judges don’t believe in the existence of God, then convict me again. But I remind people that Mok Chito is the only one alive who has done me wrong,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Chito, speaking Tuesday by telephone, dismissed Mr. Pov’s accusations.
“This guy always tries to find excuses by accusing everyone, including me, and I have no comment in response to what he said,” Lt. Gen. Chito said.
“If he believes in religion, he will be condemned to hell. But in accordance with the law, he is already in hell.”
(Additional reporting by Phann Ana)
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that former National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy died in a plane crash.