A U.S. district court in California has given Hun Manet until November 4 to respond to questions about a lawsuit filed against him by opposition official Meach Sovannara, who is serving a 20-year sentence in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison for his alleged role in a violent protest.
The judge handling the case—currently in the “discovery” phase—turned down a request by Mr. Sovannara’s lawyers to depose Lieutenant General Manet in person, instead asking for responses in writing.
“Written discovery will be as to parties in Cambodia only,” reads a court document with the minutes of a September 8 conference between Judge George Wu and lawyers involved in the case. “The discovery cutoff date is set for November 4, 2016.”
Mr. Sovannara initially filed a lawsuit against Lt. Gen. Manet, a senior military official and the eldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, over his alleged involvement in what the opposition official says is his “arbitrary, extra-legal and long-term detention.”
Paul Hayes, a process server who attempted to hand Lt. Gen. Manet a subpoena during a visit to California in April, was allegedly assaulted by the general’s bodyguards before he could deliver the document.
Earlier this month, Judge Wu decided to allow “jurisdictional discovery” in the case, a decision that Morton Sklar, an attorney representing Mr. Sovannara, said was a clear sign that the court was taking the case seriously. Jon Purcell, an attorney representing Lt. Gen. Manet, contested the notion that the case had “moved forward,” saying the judge was still trying to decide whether the case had any merit and if the lieutenant general had been properly served.
Mr. Sklar said on Wednesday that the decision allowing for written depositions still required Lt. Gen. Manet to respond to questions about the case.
“It is true that we were denied the right to conduct in-person depositions in Cambodia as we had requested. But we were granted the right to obtain the information we are seeking through written interrogatories, or lists of questions that must be fully and properly answered by the Defendants,” he said in an email.
Once Judge Wu has reviewed the responses, Mr. Sklar said, “he will decide the simple question of whether service of process took place against Hun Manet in California in an effective way, taking into account Hun Sen’s bodyguards’ efforts to interfere with and prevent service of process through their violent attack on process server Paul Hayes.”
Mr. Purcell, who works for U.S. law firm Quinn Emanuel, provided The Cambodia Daily with a copy of the latest court decision when asked for an update on the case, but did not comment on the case.