Jail Detainees Angered by New Delays

Seven trials at Phnom Penh Muni­cipal Court were postponed Monday after a prosecutor called in sick, prompting cries of outrage from suspects who say they have already been detained long­er than the law allows.

“I want to have my trial soon,” said robbery suspect Leang Sron, 19, before being transported back to Prey Sar prison, where he said he has already spent the last six months.

Article 1 of the Law on Dura­tion of Pre-Trial Detention states no person shall be detained in ex­cess of four months unless a judge extends that period to six months for further investigation.

Presiding Judge Buning Bun­nary said she decided to postpone the trials after Deputy Prosecutor Ngeth Sarath called in sick.

The trials were put off until Dec 29.

The judge said even with the two week postponement, there were no suspects who had been held long­er than the law allows.

She said that postponing trials incurs additional costs to the court system. “It is a waste of time and money when we postpone,” she said.

Suspect Leang Sron said he wait­ed two and one-half hours at the court before a court clerk told him his trial was being postponed and he was to be sent back to pri­son.

“It is a waste of time for me,” Leang Sron said. “I want to know how big my sentence is.”

Thirty-six-year-old Yim Sothy’s trial was also delayed. He said he was frustrated after having been de­tained almost seven months without a trial on a charge of fraud.

“I think it is too long,” he said.

The judicial system has long been plagued with delays for a var­iety of reasons, one of them being a chronic shortage of judges and pro­secutors.

Tuot Lux, secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice, said earlier this month there are only 120 judges and 65 prosecutors countrywide. The shortage of court of­ficials, he said, has created a backlog of cases leaving many suspects held in police custody be­yond the six-month limit.

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