Two jailed villagers convicted alongside opposition leader Sam Rainsy of illegally removing border posts will appear without a lawyer at a Court of Appeal hearing today after refusing to accept their newly appointed defense counsel, their family members and lawyer said yesterday.
Chhoeung Sarim, 39, the wife of one of the prisoners, Prum Chea, 41, said she hopes her husband will ask the Court of Appeal to delay today’s hearing, as he does not want to use the new lawyer, Ke Chamroeun.
Mr Chamroeun of the Cambodian Defenders’ Project was assigned to represent Mr Chea and co-defendant Meas Srey, 39, after their former lawyer walked out of the courtroom last month upon learning that the two villagers had not been transported from Svay Rieng Provincial Prison to testify. After the walkout, last month’s hearing was rescheduled for today.
But after meeting with Mr Chamroeun at Svay Rieng prison, Mr Chea feels that the new lawyer is not yet familiar enough with his case, his wife said.
“He told me that he does not want the new lawyer, because the new lawyer has just learned about the case. He wants his previous lawyer, and I want him to tell the judge to delay this case if he has no lawyer he wants,” Ms Sarim said, adding that Mr Chea’s former lawyer, Sam Sokong, is currently out of the country.
According to Mr Chamroeun, neither of the villagers is willing to accept his services. He said he has informed the Appeal Court that he is resigning from the case.
Ngeth Sarath, prosecutor for the Court of Appeal, said the court plans to hear the case as scheduled today, but may delay the hearing again depending on the wishes of the two prisoners.
Mr Rainsy’s lawyer, Chou Choungy, said he also intends to attend the hearing today, but he will support the two villagers in asking for a delay if they wish.
Mr Rainsy was convicted in January of damaging public property and racial incitement after he led a group of Svay Rieng villagers, including Mr Chea and Ms Srey, in uprooting six temporary border demarcation posts during a protest. They are currently serving out a yearlong sentence in Svay Rieng Provincial Prison.