FTU Fears for Star Witness Heng Pov’s Health

The Free Trade Union has is­sued a letter calling on a rights group alliance to visit incarcerated former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov in prison, stating that it fears for his health.

In the letter dated Friday and released to the media Monday, FTU Vice President Sam Srey Mom said that reports have reached the union that Heng Pov is ill, which might prevent him from testifying in the case of the 2004 slaying of FTU President Chea Vichea.

“The FTU is concerned about losing this important witness in the Chea Vichea murder case,” the letter stated. “I hope that the director of CHRAC will take care of the health and security of Heng Pov,” the letter continues, referring to the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, an alliance of 22 NGOs.

Municipal and Appeal Court officials either declined to comment or could not be reached Monday, but a lawyer for Heng Pov and the director of Prey Sar prison both rejected claims that Heng Pov was unwell.

Following an investigation led by Heng Pov, two suspects, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, were sentenced in 2005 to 20 years for Chea Vichea’s killing.

Heng Pov, currently serving 39 years for intentional killing and other crimes, has since claimed he had instructions to frame the pair.

The FTU, rights groups and others have also consistently proclaimed the men’s innocence. The Ap­peal Court nevertheless upheld the conviction in April and an appeal to the Supreme Court is now pending.

“I received information from an NGO that [Heng Pov’s] health is deteriorating,” said FTU President Chea Mony, who is also Chea Vichea’s brother, adding that Heng Pov had appeared unwell in a July court appearance.

CHRAC chairman and rights group Adhoc president Thun Saray said he intended to request permission to visit Heng Pov as soon as possible. “What the truth he has is, we don’t know,” Thun Saray said of Heng Pov’s potential testimony. “This time we will check his health only.”

Heng Pov’s attorney Nou Chan­tha declined to comment on the Chea Vichea case, but said his client was visited by doctors two to three times a week. “Heng Pov’s health is good,” he said.

Prey Sar Prison Director Mong Kim Heng also said Heng Pov was in good health Monday, adding that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court could grant permission to visit Heng Pov.

Municipal court Chief Prose­cutor Ouk Savuth said he was too busy to comment Monday while court Director Chiv Keng could not be reached.

A documentary film also re­leased Friday contains a detailed argument alleging that the case against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun was fabricated. The 50-minute documentary “Plastic Killers,” directed by American filmmaker Bradley Cox, attempts to demonstrate that alibis can be established for both men and that the police intimidated witnesses into implicating the pair.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said he had not seen the film, but added that its makers were not judicial authorities. “They can make a film, but they cannot judge,” he said. “They can say what they want, but they are not the competent authority to decide.”

Appellate judges Saly Theara and Thou Mony could not be reached Monday.

  (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison and James Welsh)


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