Seven Nigerian men who stand charged with drug trafficking denied any involvement in an alleged methamphetamine ring during the second day of their trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, a month after an eighth man admitted to acting as a courier.
Police arrested the eight Nigerians across Phnom Penh on the evening of October 26, seizing more than 100 grams of crystal methamphetamine from Ime Johanudom, 52, before apprehending the others.
On the first day of their trial last month, Mr. Johanudom admitted to transporting the drugs at the behest of another Nigerian, whom he identified only as “Mr. Frank.”
During questioning Tuesday, defendant Echowdo Sam Son, 33, told the court through a translator that he knew nothing about a drug ring and had been working at his restaurant in Pur Senchey district’s Choam Chao commune when he was arrested.
“I knew nothing and I was selling food in my shop when police came to arrest me,” he said.
Under questioning from deputy prosecutor Ly Sophanna, Ezigbo Gabriel, 41, also claimed ignorance of a drug ring and said he had fled from police after witnessing the arrest of Mr. Son, whose restaurant was down the street from his own.
“I saw police come in and arrest a black person, and I don’t have a visa and I thought the police wanted to arrest those without a visa,” he said.
Contacted by telephone, Im Socheat, a lawyer for Mr. Son, said his client ran a legitimate business and was innocent of the charge against him.
“Illegal groups do not operate their businesses out in the open, in a shop—they do it secretly,” he said.
Mr. Socheat also accused the police who arrested his client of being racist.
“I hate drug trafficking, but we have to do more investigation, and not just see the black men and arrest and charge them.”
Presiding Judge Top Chhun Heng said the trial will resume on September 4.