Irregularities Highlighted in Rights Worker’s Disinformation Case

Alleging a slew of procedural irregularities, local human rights group Licadho yesterday called for the release of an employee facing trial today over his alleged role in the dissemination of leaflets critical of the ruling CPP and retired King Norodom Sihanouk in January.

In a statement released to coincide with the disinformation trial of Leang Sokchouen, who was scheduled to appear at Takeo Provincial Court today with two co-defendents, Licadho claimed its employee has not been provided the basic legal rights afforded for under Cambodian law and called for all charges be dropped.

Mr Sokchouen was arrested by police from the Interior Ministry’s internal security department on May 29 for allegedly collaborating with two other men to distribute leaflets in Takeo province’s Donkeo City on Jan 4, part of a series of leaflet incidents that reportedly began in November.

Licadho alleges a number of discrepancies in the investigation, including the use of incorrect information regarding Mr Sokchouen’s identity.

The rights group claims that the court’s investigative report contains evidence from a wiretap of a telephone used by a man known as “Mr Leang Sokly,” a Vietnamese national living in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district.

Mr Sokchouen, however, is a Cambodian national who lived in the capital’s Sen Sok district prior to his arrest, according to Licadho.

Licadho also questioned how an investigation four months after the alleged leaflet dissemination was conducted up in just a day, and claimed that Mr Sokchouen was held incommunicado for 33 hours after his arrest without access to a lawyer.

Licadho President Pung Chhiv Kek said yesterday that the material printed on the leaflets referred to Vietnam’s political influence in Cambodia but that Mr Sokchouen had played no role in their dissemination.

“Sokchouen was not involved in any political action whatsoever,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Still, he has already served 3 months in jail without any evidence and after only a one-day investigation.”

While the court’s investigation may have been brief, provincial prosecutor Meas Sopheak said yesterday that national and provincial police had begun a preliminary inquiry in 2009.

“The investigation started back in 2009 and early 2010,” he said.

Chhay Sinarith, director of the police internal security department, denied Licadho’s claims that the suspect had held in police custody longer than legally allowed, saying Mr Sockchouen was only held while authorities waited for provincial police to pick him up.

 

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