King Norodom Sihanouk, after receiving a letter from the lawyer of three suspects detained for more than seven months on suspicion of links with terrorists, asked Minister of Justice Neav Sithong last week to intervene in the case.
“I would like to request your Majesty to consider and do whatever to ask the court to release my three clients,” Kao Soupha, a lawyer representing two Thais and an Egyptian charged in May under the country’s anti-terror law, wrote to the King in a letter dated Dec 18.
Under Untac law, suspects cannot be held for more than six months without a trial, though it happens regularly. No trial date has been set for the suspects, who are suspected of having links with the Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.
Police closed two Islamic schools funded by a Saudi Arabia-based organization and arrested Thai nationals Abdul Azi Haji Chiming, 35, and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading, 41, and Egyptian Esam Muhammad Khidr Ali, 40, all of whom are being represented by Kao Soupha. Cambodian Sman Esma El, 23, was also arrested and similarly charged in June.
“Please inspect on this request of the Kao Soupha letter,” the King wrote to Neav Sithong in a short letter dated Dec 26.
The minister could not be contacted Friday.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Oun Bunna said in August that the evidence linking the suspects to Jemaah Islamiyah is too weak to put them on trial. Court officials have said that a US government security agency denied Oun Bunna access to intelligence that may reveal the suspects’ ties to the terror group.
Police officials have said that crucial evidence is being withheld from the courts while the government seeks to extradite the suspects to their native countries.
A US government report on international religious freedom released late last month said that members of Cambodia’s Cham Muslims reported few societal problems, but that “occasional tensions have been reported among the various branches of Islam, which receive monetary support from groups in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia or Indonesia.”