Four imprisoned members of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF)—a group that advocates for the removal of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling CPP—on Monday told the Appeal Court that confessions given to police last year were extracted by force.
Following a 15-minute trial in April last year, seven KNLF members were found guilty of plotting to overthrow the government and sentenced to between five and nine years in prison. Six other members of the group, including its Denmark-based founder Sam Serey, were convicted and sentenced in absentia.
At the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh on Monday, four of the seven were questioned for more than three hours, with each claiming that he had been tortured into giving false confessions.
“Police slapped me, dragged me by the hair, handcuffed me and beat me to confess,” said Suon Phal, a 53-year-old Khmer Krom man who was arrested in Thailand and deported to Cambodia in March 2013 along with his six fellow appellants.
Also questioned Monday were Suong Sithikun, 52; Khem Ma, 29; and Yin Yav, 56.
“The judicial police officers tortured me, forcing me to say what they wanted me to say,” Mr. Ma said, adding that he had no affiliation with the dissident group.
“Someone had told me that the Front protects human rights and opposes violence. I think the Front is good, but I never joined it,” he said.
Presiding Judge Tithsothy Boraleakh, however, said it was unlikely that police had used violence against the men.
“Please don’t accuse police of forcing you to confess, because the police took oaths in front of the spirit house [inside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court],” she said. “What benefit is there for police to force you to confess?”
The trial of the seven is set to resume at the Appeal Court on May 19.
Along with the 13 alleged KNLF members convicted of plotting to oust Mr. Hun Sen’s government, 10 others were arrested in October 2014 and charged with inciting violence over acts including distributing allegedly incendiary literature and planning a protest outside the Vietnamese Embassy.
Those 10 were questioned at the Appeal Court on April 21 over their request to be freed on bail and are due to receive a decision today.
In December, the KNLF announced that it was drafting a plan to form a government-in-exile. A month earlier, the National Police released a statement claiming that the dissident group was “training terrorist forces to secretly plant explosives near the Thai border” and “topple the government through the use of illegal armed force.”
© 2015, All rights reserved.