The 14 Kompong Speu province men arrested following the April 1 raid on an illicit drug production lab in Phnom Sruoch district were released on bail Friday, though they have not yet been cleared of the charges against them, a rights worker said.
The men were granted bail after an Aug 27 appeal to Phnom Penh Municipal Court by provincial Governor Kang Heang, but the paperwork securing their release was only finalized Friday, said Chan Soveth, investigator for the rights group Adhoc, on Sunday.
Adhoc transported the men by van from Prey Sar prison back to their families in Treng Trayoeng commune Saturday, Chan Soveth said. He also appealed to the court to expedite the case of the 14, who claim they had only been employed for one hour prior to their arrest at the lab and had no knowledge of illegal activity.
“We are very happy to reunite with our families and offer thanks to Kompong Speu Governor Kang Heang,” said Khim Sokha, 37, adding that he and six of the other arrested men had shaved their heads in an attempt to purge themselves of the incident.
Speaking at the drug lab Thursday during a ceremony marking the disposal of drug precursor chemicals, municipal court Prosecutor Ouk Savuth said he had signed the governor’s appeal a few days prior, securing the release of the 14.
Chea Chung, a former adviser to Funcinpec Secretary-General and four-star General Nhiek Bun Chhay, is also charged in the case. Oum Chhay, an adviser to National Assembly and CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin, was arrested in connection with the lab but died Aug 21 after apparently jumping from a window of Interior Ministry Anti-Drug Department Director Moek Dara’s office.
Ouk Savuth and Kang Heang could not be reached for comment Sunday.