Former university lecturer Tieng Narith, who has nearly completed a two and half year prison sentence for teaching from his own anti-government textbook, will have to remain behind bars if he is unable to pay fines levied by the Phnom Penh court, according to Appeal Court Prosecutor-General Hanrot Raken.
Cambodian Defenders Project’s lawyer Hong Kimsuon said Tuesday that he had met Hanrot Raken last week to request the release of his client when his sentence ends March 5 even though he has a pending request for an appeal hearing that has not yet been scheduled by the Appeal Court. In a number of instances, convicted individuals have been made to wait in prison after their sentence has been completed while they wait for their appeal hearing.
“It will affect the rights of the charged person who must be heard at an appropriate time,” Hong Kimsuon said.
But Hanrot Raken said Tuesday that the Appeal Court had already affirmed Tieng Narith’s conviction, which included $1,250 in fines.
“It has already been upheld,” he said.
Hanrot Raken said he could not recall the details of the Appeal Court’s hearing of Tieng Narith’s case beyond knowing that the court had already upheld the sentence. He added that someone has to help pay the fines for Tieng Narith to be released on March 5.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court in March 2007 ordered Tieng Narith, who has been detained since November 2006, to stay an additional 2 years in prison if he could not come up with the money.
Hong Kimsuon said that there is no way that his client’s case has already gone before the Appeal Court.
“I am defending the case for [Tieng Narith], and he was not yet heard,” he said.
Tieng Narith’s mother, Kong Sophon, 58, also said that no word had reached her of any hearing before the Appeal Court.
“They have not tried him yet and there are only 20 days more” to the end of his sentence, she said.
She added that the family could not afford to pay the fines. “The father is retired and the mother is at home, I am worried,” she said.