Heng Pov Gets 18 Years for Judge’s Murder

Disgraced former municipal police chief Heng Pov was sentenced in absentia Monday to 18 years in prison for ordering the 2003 murder of Municipal Court Judge Sok Sethamony.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court also handed down 16-year sentences to five other police officers im­plicated in the killing: Hang Vu­thy, who police say is at large, Ly Ra­sy, Prum Sophearith, Hang Vu­tha and Oum Samkheng.

Convicted in absentia, Heng Pov and Hang Vuthy will begin their sen­tences the day they are arrested, judge Kim Ravy said.

Authorities announced a warrant for Heng Pov’s arrest July 31 for his role in the killing, as well as three oth­er attempted murders. Ly Rasy was charged over the killing in Jan­u­ary while the other four defendants were charged in February.

Kim Ravy ordered the six to also pay $300,000 in compensation to the late judge’s widow. However, the judge said the funds could come from money seized from Heng Pov.

David Chen, an Australian law­yer acting for Heng Pov, did not re­spond to requests for comment, though Chen and Heng Pov have pre­viously denied all charges.

Heng Pov left Cambodia in July and is now seeking political asylum.

Sok Sethamony, 42, was shot dead by gunmen in April 2003 as he waited at a traffic light on Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boule­vard.

Hang Vutha drove the motorbike from which Oum Samkheng shot the judge, Kim Ravy told the court. Hang Vuthy and Prum Sop­hearith followed on a different motor­bike, he said.

“Oum Samkheng shot Judge Sok Sethamony with five bullets and Hang Vuthy gave Oum Samk­heng $1,200,” Kim Ravy said. “The crime was committed on orders from Ly Rasy and Heng Pov.”

During the four-hour trial, Prum Sop­hearith and Hang Vutha denied the charges but refused to answer ques­tions. They rejected court ap­pointed council as they said they had not been able to speak to their attorneys prior to the hearing.

Lawyer Long Dara, who represented Ly Rasy and Oum Samk­heng, and lawyer Ty Vanndeth, who represented Heng Pov, both de­nied the charges against their clients.

“There isn’t a single piece of evidence,” Ty Vanndeth said.

Evidence introduced at trial in­cluded sworn statements from Ru­ral Development Minister Lu Lays­reng, who said he heard the judge re­ceive a death threat, and Phok Manny, a Justice Ministry under­sec­retary of state, who said the victim had asked for a judge to investigate Heng Pov.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

 

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