US Lawyer Seeks a ‘Default’ Decision Against Hun Manet

An American attorney representing opposition official Meach Sovannara in his “wrongful imprisonment” lawsuit filed against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son in the U.S. last month said on Sunday he is now pushing for a “default” decision in his favor.

Morton Sklar is representing Mr. Sovannara—a U.S. citizen—in his case against Hun Manet and the Cambodian government over the 20-year prison sentence he is serving in Phnom Penh for his presence at a protest that turned into a street brawl in July 2014.

Hun Manet speaks during a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport on April 25. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Hun Manet speaks during a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport on April 25. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Sklar claims that Lieutenant General Manet was served a subpoena while in Long Beach, California, on April 9 for the case brought in a U.S. federal court, but that he susequently failed to respond to the court within the required 30 days to indicate what his plea would be.

“That means that we will indeed shortly be filing a new set of pleadings with the Federal District Court in California aimed at securing what is called ‘an order of default,’” Mr. Sklar said in an email.

Such a court order, Mr. Sklar explained, “is the first stage of the process designed to secure an enforceable order against a defendant that fails to respond to the Court’s summons in a timely manner.”

It is not in fact clear if Lt. Gen. Manet was legally served with the summons on April 9 by Paul Hayes, a private investigator who was hospitalized after trying to serve the summons.

Mr. Hayes—who says he was dropped onto his head by one of Lt. Gen. Manet’s bodyguards—moved to press charges in the incident last month.

A spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department said on Saturday she could not comment on the case until later this week.

Mr. Sklar claims the fact that Mr. Hayes was within reach of Lt. Gen. Manet and in the act of serving the subpoena when assaulted legally counts as its execution.

Lt. Gen. Manet did not respond to a request for comment. Yet upon his return from the U.S. last month, he indicated he would do what is legally necessary in the case despite dismissing it as frivolous.

“If they want to sue, they should choose a reasonable issue,” Lt. Gen. Manet said at a press conference on April 25.

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