Judge Denounced for Sentences in Killings

Human rights, courts and po­lice officials Wednesday blasted a provincial judge for incompetence and corruption one day af­ter he sentenced four men convicted of the triple killing of a Ra­ta­nakkiri pro­vince family to only four months in prison.

“The court was incapable of solving this problem,” Adhoc de­puty Chan Soveth said. Ra­ta­nak­kiri provincial Judge Nong Sok sentenced Nou Keang, 30, Houm Yat, 51, Doun Come, 57, and Souy Sem, 54, to four months in prison each for the Ju­ly 7 killings of Pouch Toun, 61, his son Poch Sroun, 26, and his granddaughter Poch Rotha, 9.

The judge handed down the sentence in spite of convicting the men of intentional murder, which by law carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years, Chan So­veth said.

Several phone calls to Nong Sok went unanswered Wed­nes­day, but principal court clerk Ung Ken confirmed the judge’s decision, adding that the judge had acquitted a fifth man, Ma Doul.

The four men were charged with murder in a case pro­secutors claim was over black magic, Ratanakkiri Chief of Penal Police Chea Bun Thoeun said. The men be­lieved Pouch Toun was a sorcerer. They invited Poch Sroun and Poch Ro­tha on a boat trip on a nearby bo­dy of water, Chea Bun Thoeun said.

When the group returned to the dock, the men attacked the family, Chea Bun Thoeun said, beating Poch Sroun to death with paddles. Poch Rotha leaped from the boat and fled into the jungle. Her killers were able to find her, however, because she was crying loudly, the chief said.

They beat her unconscious and dragged her into the water nearby, where she drowned, Chea Bun Thoeun said.

The next day, Pouch Toun went looking for his son and granddaughter and was fatally shot in the neck by the same men, who left his body in the water.

Chea Bun Thoeun said Tues­day’s sentences were a dis­ap­point­ment. “The killers should have been put in jail for their whole lives,” he said.

Even Ung Ken condemned the sentences. “The sentences aren’t fair,” he said.

The case is a setback for Cam­bo­dia’s judiciary, Chan Soveth said. “This is an abuse of the hu­man rights law,” he said.

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