Murder Trial Of Slain Judge Slated To Start

The trial for the 2003 murder of Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Sok Sethamony, which police have blamed on officials including fugitive former municipal police chief Heng Pov, will begin Sept 18, officials said Sunday.

Court director Chiv Keng said any suspect outside Cambodia for the hearing will be tried regardless. “Those who are absent will be tried in absentia,” he said.

Officials declined to say who would be standing trial, or how many defendants there would be.

Accusing Heng Pov of involvement in Sok Sethamony’s murder and other crimes, authorities on July 31 announced a warrant for his arrest, a week after he left Cambodia for Singapore. Heng Pov has denied the allegation and blamed the killing on the outlawed Cambodian Free­dom Fighters.

Four police officials were also charged with the killing earlier this year. In February, Prum Sophea­rith, a municipal minor crime department officer, joined three other suspects in Prey Sar prison: municipal police official Hang Vutha, his brother Municipal Criminal Section Deputy Police Chief Hang Vuthy, and Interior Ministry penal police officer Oum Samkheng.

Hang Vuthy escaped from Prey Sar June 11 and has not been seen since. Officials said last week that Heng Pov was in Malaysia.

David Chen, an Australian attorney acting for Heng Pov, said in an e-mail last week that Heng Pov had been joined in hiding by his wife and son. “He has reunited with his wife and 2-year-old American-born son,” Chen wrote. “They were recent­ly…freed from house arrest be­­cause the American embassy in Cambodia had inquired about his son.” Chen did not name Heng Pov’s son and wife.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said Thursday he could not discuss Chen’s claims due to privacy rules.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached Sunday.

Heng Pov’s application for refugee status had not yet been determined, Chen said. “As for his next move, it will depend on what transpire in the next few months,” he wrote.

 

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