Lawyer Asks US to Arrest, Try CFF Head

The 20 suspected members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters now standing trial in Phnom Penh Municipal Court asked for pardons and main­­tained their innocence Fri­day, as the defense’s lead attorney asked the US to arrest and try Cambodian-American CFF leader Chhun Yasith.

Authorities have charged the defendants, 19 men and a wo­man, with terrorism and membership in an armed force in the failed Nov 24, 2000, CFF attack in the capital and three subsequent attacks in Phnom Penh.

“I have nothing to do with the CFF,” said Sao Chum Gilbert, a Cam­bodian-American who was arrested in September after he stepped off a plane at Pochentong Airport. “I ask the court to release me because I am not guilty—I only came to Cam­bodia to help work on computers.”

Plang Bunthoeun, another CFF sus­pect, also declared his innocence Friday. “Please reduce my punishment and release me so I can help my poor family—I was cheated,” he said.

Responding to the defendant’s statements, Judge Sok Sethamony said he was “sympathetic to family matters and concerns of betrayal. But I am a judge and must abide by justice.”

The verdict and sentencing are scheduled for Thursday.

During Friday’s arguments, lead defense attorney Puth Thea­vy called on the US to try Chhun Yasith, whom Cambodian authorities have already tried and sentenced to life in prison in absentia.

“I want to see what kind of information Chhun Yasith’s trial would lead to,” Puth Theavy said.

Since most of the evidence against his clients introduced by the court centered around linking the 20 accused to Chhun Yasith, Puth Theavy attempted Friday to discount Chhun Yasith’s influence, saying authorities considered his clients guilty by association.

“If Chhun Yasith pointed to [the prosecutor] or to me, we would be arrested for being CFF members,” the attorney said, referring to the court’s list of more than 200 suspected CFF members which the police took from the com­puter of convicted CFF member Ri­chard Kiri Kim. Authorities used the names on the list to implicate the accused of CFF membership.

Municipal Court Prosecutor Sok Roeun said the police would not arrest people falsely or wrongly named in the list. He asked Sok Sethamony to punish the defendants “severely.”

 

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