Without bothering to wait for the defendants to arrive, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the guilty verdicts against three men convicted alongside disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov of conspiring to murder municipal court Judge Sok Sethamony in 2003, but did not consider Mr. Pov’s own appeal.
On September 30 and October 1, the court re-examined two cases involving Mr. Pov, who was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of a slew of crimes for which he is currently serving a 98-year prison term. A third case was postponed due to the sudden illness of Judge Nil Nonn.
On Tuesday, within minutes of convening the court, presiding Judge Kong Srim announced that it had upheld the verdicts handed down by the municipal court against three of Mr. Pov’s co-defendants. But he said Mr. Pov had failed to file his appeal to the Supreme Court within the requisite 30 days following the Appeal Court’s verdict in 2010.
“Heng Pov’s appeal complaint was filed after the deadline, so the Supreme Court did not consider his case,” Judge Srim said while the four men were still making their way to the courtroom.
“For the other three defendants, Ly Rasy, Prum Sophearith and Hang Vutha, the Supreme Court upholds the Appeal Court’s decision from December 2, 2010.”
At the September 30 hearing, Mr. Pov testified that the judge’s murder and a litany of other charges had all been pinned on him by former National Police commissioner and rival Hok Lundy, who died in a helicopter crash in 2008.
He also accused Mok Chito, director of the Interior Ministry’s central judicial department, of fabricating evidence and pressuring the courts to convict him and then uphold the sentences. Mr. Rasy told the court that Lieutenant General Chito had attempted to force him to testify against Mr. Pov.
When the four men arrived at the court Tuesday, they condemned the judges’ decision to announce the verdict in their absence and appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen for help.
“This is totally unjust. This is the work of Mok Chito…. I ask for the help of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Hun Sen to help me find justice because I didn’t commit this crime,” Mr. Vutha said.
Mr. Pov said he did not understand why Judge Srim would announce a verdict before the four of them showed up.
“It is not right,” he said. “It is very strange that the court announced the verdict in this way because we should listen to the verdict directly, so I will thumbprint a complaint so that this case can be reviewed.”
Lt. Gen. Chito could not be reached.