The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday charged attorney Pich Rattana with attempted bribery of a judge, as dozens of fellow lawyers rallied to have him released on bail.
Mr. Rattana’s own lawyer, Saing Vannak, confirmed the charge and said Mr. Rattana had been placed in provisional detention at Phnom Penh’s PJ Prison. Both Mr. Vannak and deputy prosecutor Ngin Pech, who processed the case, declined to give further details.
Dun Vibol, one of several lawyers who signed a letter to the court in support of Mr. Rattana—asking it to release him on bail—said the accused’s own client had filed the complaint against him.
“I don’t know whether he committed the crime or not, but I think all lawyers, because of their profession, have reasons for what they do,” Mr. Vibol said, claiming that Mr. Rattana was not a flight risk.
“We signed [the letter] to support him…because Mr. Rattana has a job, a wife and children and a permanent address.”
Heang Hong, another lawyer supporting Mr. Rattana, said that by on Thursday morning, as many as 70 lawyers had signed the letter.
“By the afternoon, I think that it will increase to almost 100 lawyers,” he said.
Chou Chanthyra, one of six lawyers on Mr. Rattana’s defense team, said the court had charged him with bribing a judge under Article 518 of the Criminal Code, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Bun Honn, president of Cambodia’s bar association, said the lawyers supporting Mr. Rattana were acting on their own accord.
“Signing on to support [Mr. Rattana] is the personal right of those lawyers. It doesn’t involve the bar association,” he said.
The Anti-Corruption Unit arrested Mr. Rattana on Tuesday, leading the bar association to issue a notice to its members outlining professional conduct and advising them not to broker paperwork for court officials.