Hearings Scheduled for 18 Suspected Rebels

The Appeals Court has scheduled hearings on Monday for 18 men convicted two years ago of involvement with the self-styled anti-communist rebel group, the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, according to local rights group Licadho.

The men were prosecuted for organized crime under Article 36 of the Untac law and Articles 1 and 2 or the Law on Punishment of the Acts of Terrorism. Their sentences range from seven to 18 years, according to Licadho.

The CFF, whose US-based leader has sworn to topple Prime Minister Hun Sen’s “communist-style” government, launched an ill-fated attack on Phnom Penh in November 2000. At least four were killed before the insurgents were rounded up. Extensive arrests of alleged rebels followed, causing some to voice skepticism of those suspects’ culpability and claims the sweeps targeted opposition supporters.

Confirmation of the trial could not be obtained from the Appeals Court on Thursday. Several at­tempts to contact Appeals Court Director Ly Vuoch Leng by telephone were unsuccessful. A second Appeals Court official de­clined to comment, stating that only his director would know.

Soun Visal of the Cambodian Defenders Project said Thursday that his organization had not been notified of any hearings scheduled for Monday.

The CDP is providing free defense counsel for a number of the CFF suspects.

Kang Saren, director of the Battambang provincial prison, where the alleged terrorist are now detained, also said he had not heard that the appeals hearings were scheduled for Monday.

“I didn’t get news from the top official about transporting the CFF people to Phnom Penh. Usually the Interior Ministry will inform us about transport, and we’ll have time to organize them,” he said.

However, Kol Sophan, director of the Interior Ministry’s prison department, said he knew of Monday’s hearings but hadn’t yet arranged the prisoners’ transportation for the trip to Phnom Penh.

“Now I’m asking for funds for their transport,” he said.

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