A lawyer convicted of attempting to bribe a judge to keep his client out of jail was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison, with three years suspended, but remained free pending appeals.
Presiding Judge Svay Tonh, who announced the verdict in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said the defendant, Pich Rattana, would only be required to serve two years of the sentence. An arrest warrant was not issued.
Judge Tonh said the municipal court would keep Mr. Rattana’s passport. He also ordered the defendant to pay 2 million riel, or about $500, in compensation to his former client, Sang Sary.
Another judge at the hearing, Lim Makaron, declined to comment on the sentence. “This is the conclusion and decision,” Judge Makaron said while leaving the courtroom.
According to testimony read out in court three weeks ago, Mr. Rattana asked Ms. Sary for more than $10,000 to make a deal with Investigating Judge Chuon Sokreasey to keep her out of jail. Judge Sokreasey denied discussing any such deal with Mr. Rattana.
Mr. Rattana admitted to having received $5,000 from Ms. Sary, but said during the trial that the money was to be used as bail, rather than to bribe the judge.
Mr. Rattana’s lawyer Chou Chanthyra said on Friday that he was not sure yet whether his client would appeal. But he will remain free during the 30-day period allotted for filing one, said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project.
“This is nothing odd, because the verdict is not final yet,” Mr. Sam Oeun said. “I think it might be that the court saw the defendant had not committed violence or killed anyone.”
In a separate case on Thursday, a Supreme Court clerk was given a suspended sentence for taking bribes in exchange for influencing a judge’s ruling. The clerk, Vat Viseth, 30, received a three-year prison term at the municipal court, but was only required to serve five months. He claimed the judge whose influence he was peddling was not involved in the bribery scheme.