A July 1 hearing has been set for the two accused killers of union leader Chea Vichea, an Appeals Court judge assigned to the case said Monday.
“If we find there is no evidence, we can release Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun. If there is evidence, we will detain them,” Thuong Mony said.
Since the January arrests of the two men, numerous witnesses have challenged the case against them, sparking criticism of the police investigation by opposition politicians, labor unions and local and international human rights organizations.
On March 22, Phnom Penh Investigating Judge Hing Thirith dropped the charges against the suspects on account of insufficient evidence. The decision was challenged by Prosecutor Khut Sokheng, forwarding the case to the Appeals Court. “The reason why I filed the appeal against Hing Thirith’s ruling was because [the suspects] confessed to the crime and I have enough evidence to support the charges,” Khut Sokheng said Monday.
When presented to reporters by police on Jan 30, Born Samnang, 23, and Sok Sam Oeun, 36, pleaded their innocence in near hysterics. The next day, Born Samnang confessed to the Jan 22 shooting. Sok Sam Oeun has maintained innocence.
Residents of a Prey Veng province village later told reporters that Born Samnang was with them at the time of the shooting in Phnom Penh. And the police’s principle witness, whom police said had accused Born Samnang, told reporters that a picture of Born Samnang did not resemble the shooter.
Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, which is providing three lawyers for the defense, welcomed the announcement of a hearing Monday. CDP filed a motion with the Appeals Court last week to hurry the case along after it had stalled for nearly three months.
CDP’s Sok Sam Oeun, who is not related to the suspect of the same name, declined further comment on the case until the hearing.
Born Samnang’s mother also welcomed news of the hearing date. “I will gather all the family and go to court,” Nun Kimsrei said Monday.