Official Says ‘Joking’ About Ousted Judge Arrest

A day after making—and quickly retracting—claims to the media that disgraced Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Ang Mealaktei had been arrested, national military police spokesman Kheng Tito said Thursday that his comments had been made in jest.

The former court director, who was removed from his position in February amid allegations of serious corruption, spent two days this week being questioned by Anti-Corruption Unit chief Om Yentieng before rumors surfaced that he was arrested on Wednesday.

Local media on Thursday quoted Brigadier General Tito, the spokesman, as saying that Mr. Mealaktei had been arrested. Contacted Thursday, however, the military police spokesman said that he had only been joking.

“You know, I was just joking with [the reporter] and he used the quote,” Brigadier General Tito said.

“My boss [Military Police Commander Sao Sokha] complained to me very strongly and now I am looking for [the reporter’s] phone number to call him and ask to make a correction.”

Asked to clarify the confusing comments and reports, Brig. Gen. Tito said: “Mr. Ang Mealaktei was not arrested. I do not know where he is.”

Brig. Gen. Tito had also confirmed the arrest rumors to The Cambodia Daily on Wednesday before calling a reporter back in an attempt to retract his comment, saying that it was not true and that the quote would “kill” him.

Mr. Mealaktei was fired from the court hours after Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested in a public speech that he may have accepted a $5-million bribe in exchange for releasing from prison the mother and father of a fugitive Defense Ministry official, who were both jailed on weapons charges.

The Justice Ministry—where Mr. Mealaktei was promptly given a position following his ouster—said that it had completed its investigation into Mr. Mealaktei on Monday and was preparing to send its report to the Supreme Council of the Magistracy.

On Thursday, a Justice Ministry spokesman said he was not aware of Mr. Mealaktei’s status.

“I have not heard that Mr. Ang Mealaktei was arrested,” spokesman Kim Santepheap said. “I am not sure if he comes to work each day, but the government has given him a job at the Ministry of Justice.”

Reached Thursday, Mr. Mealaktei declined to comment.

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