Nine court officials have been charged for their alleged involvement in taking bribes for the early release of six suspected criminals, according to the prosecutor appointed to investigate their case.
Yam Yet, chief prosecutor for the Battambang Court, said he charged Stung Treng Provincial Court Judge Hing Thirith and Phnom Penh Municipal Court judges Kong Sarith and Ham Mengse on Monday. He also leveled charges against Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savouth and deputy prosecutors Siem Sok Aun and Khut Sopheang, but could not remember the names of three municipal court clerks whom he also charged.
“The prosecutors and judges are charged with taking bribes,” Yam Yet said on Thursday. “Three clerks are charged with being accomplices.”
Only weeks ago, Yam Yet said there was not enough evidence to prosecute the court officials.
Asked why he changed his mind, he said he would leave the case up to Battambang Court Investigating Judge Nil Non.
“I just charged [them] based on the complaint and forwarded it to the investigating judge,” Yam Yet said. He added that whether the nine court officials will be arrested will also be left up to Nil Non.
Calls to Nil Non went unanswered Thursday.
Judges Kong Sarith and Ham Mengse and deputy prosecutors Siem Sok Aun and Khut Sopheang were publicly named by the Phnom Penh Municipal Police for alleged involvement in bribery last month. The police accusations prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to vow an “iron fist” crackdown on court corruption.
Two women, Chan Dina, 31, and Heng Kimleang, 33, and an unidentified person have also been charged by the Battambang Court for paying bribes to some of the nine accused for the release of suspected criminals, Yam Yet said.
Earlier this week, Yam Yet had decried the Phnom Penh police for arresting Chan Dina and Heng Kimleang without a warrant and detaining them without charges.
The six suspected criminals believed to have secured early release from the accused court officials were rearrested and are being detained in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison.
Contacted Thursday, Deputy Prosecutor Siem Sok Aun and Judge Hing Thirith declined to comment on the charges against them. Ouk Savouth, Ham Mengse and Khut Sopheang did not answer their phones.
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana also declined Thursday to comment about the case. “Just wait and see the result,” he said.