Phnom Penh Municipal Court released a man accused of membership in the Cambodian Freedom Fighters Tuesday, saying it had no evidence to try or detain the suspected rebel.
The court released Sok Thy from his detention after he had spent 10 months behind bars. Arrested in September 2001 in a second round of government arrests of CFF suspects, Sok Thy was tried in late April with 19 other accused CFF members.
The courts charged the 20 accused CFF members with involvement in the Nov 24, 2000, coup attempt in the capital, as well as with three separate bombings in Phnom Penh.
During the trial, the courts provided no direct evidence linking any of the accused with the attack that left at least four dead, or with the bombings at the Vietnamese Embassy, Funcinpec’s Phnom Penh headquarters or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Nevertheless, the court convicted 19 of the suspects, sentencing them to between five years to life in prison. Sok Thy was not convicted. The court decided it needed to re-investigate his case.
So far, at least 100 men have been convicted for their involvement in the CFF—a move that has angered critics, who fear the government is using the CFF accusations as a way of silencing critics or dissidents. According to one court source, Sok Thy is the only accused CFF member ever to have his case re-investigated.
While Sok Thy’s release may represent hope for the other convicted CFF members, a defense attorney who has represented at least 75 CFF members says it is an anomaly. Puth Theavy, who has represented accused CFF members in three separate trials, said he has filed appeals on behalf of 75 convicted CFF members. So far, the Appeals Court of Phnom Penh has not heard a single appeal, he said. “I don’t know when they will hear the cases—I want them to open them soon,” Puth Theavy said Wednesday.
One international court observer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday that at least 90 appeals have been filed, and not one has been heard. By law, a person convicted of a crime has two months to file an appeal with the appeals court. But the court is not obligated to respond.
to the appeal.