The lawyer of seven men convicted of involvement with the Cambodian Freedom Fighters lashed out at the Appeals Court Wednesday over his clients’ more than three year-long wait for a hearing.
Lawyer Put Theavy’s clients were convicted in June 2001 for the November 2000 attack on government buildings in Phnom Penh. Though they completed their retroactive three-year sentences in November 2003, they remain behind bars, awaiting an Appeals Court decision on the deputy prosecutor’s request that they serve a longer prison term. That request was made shortly after their conviction more than three years ago.
Put Theavy said his clients have not had a hearing because they carry no political clout. “It is worthless for the judge,” he said. “They don’t care so much.”
Though the men maintain their innocence, they dropped their appeal last year when it appeared the Appeals Court would not hear their case before they finished their original sentence.
In contrast, the Appeals Court was able to grant a hearing to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew Nhim Sophea in August, some five months after he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in an October 2003 car crash and shooting that left three people dead.
During the August hearing, the Appeals Court cleared Nhim Sophea of the charge and ordered him released.
Tuot Lux, secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice, on Wednesday declined to comment on the discrepancy of the waiting period. He also declined to comment on Nhim Sophea’s case.
But, he said, the CFF case was delayed “because the Appeals Court has many cases.”
Asked why Nhim Sophea’s case was able to proceed more quickly, Appeals Court President Ly Vuochleng on Tuesday said: “I don’t know.”
She added: “I did not see any documents [in the Nhim Sophea case] because it was an independent procedure.”
(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)