Apparently tired of allowing British businessman Gregg Fryett to berate the prosecutors and other officials responsible for his imprisonment, the presiding judge in the long-running trial of the accused fraudster and four associates halted proceedings mid-hearing on Wednesday after chastising the defendant.
During numerous hearings held at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over the past two months, Mr. Fryett has been given the floor for hours at a time, allowing him to rail against the handling of the case and the fact that he has been languishing in prison for more than three years.
Judge Chuon Sokreasey said on Wednesday that he had had enough.
“He is trying to waste time, is not answering questions that the judges want him to, and is showing improper attitude toward the whole hearing,” the judge told the court after Mr. Fryett delivered his latest diatribe.
“In order to avoid confusion, the judges have decided to pick this up at the next hearing on June 21 and 22 next week.”
The decision was a stark change of heart for the judge, who explained last month that he would allow Mr. Fryett as much time as he wanted to talk for fear of being accused of bias as foreign journalists watched the proceedings.
“I am not unaware of the procedures, but sometimes, when we are too strict with him, he will say we violated his rights,” he said at the time.
“When I do not allow him to speak, he gets mad. So I discussed it with the panel of judges, and we decided to let him speak for now because we will not finish the hearing in just one day. There are still a lot more,” he added.
Before Judge Sokreasey’s patience ran out on Wednesday, Mr. Fryett spent much of the morning session mocking Ly Sophanna, the deputy prosecutor handling the case.
At one point, Mr. Fryett was asked a series of questions about the alleged illegal clearing of trees from land he had leased in Banteay Meanchey province for a jatropha plantation meant to produce biofuel. The accusation followed a complaint filed in 2012 by Forestry Administration official Vann Sophana —a complaint Mr. Fryett argues was made specifically to give authorities a reason to seize his company’s land and assets.
“Do you have any documents to support that?” he asked Mr. Sophanna when asked about the charge of illegally clearing land. “You don’t have anything to justify and support this prosecution.”
“Are you telling me you refused my bail—my constitutional freedom —because of that?” an increasingly frustrated Mr. Fryett said as a copy of Mr. Sophana’s complaint was projected onto a screen in the courtroom.
“I have got evidence. Where is yours?” Mr. Fryett said, pointing to the stack of documents he brings to each trial, which includes statements from various government officials supporting his claim that the case has been riddled with irregularities.
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