donkeo district, Takeo province – Officials here are criticizing a provincial court official’s decision to release a man suspected of murdering one of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguards.
Nop Hov, 26, was arrested in April after Kea Heng was found stabbed to death in Prey Kabbas district’s Thlok Daun Tum village. Kea Heng had gone home to visit his family for the Khmer New Year and got into a dispute with a group of men before he was killed, police officials said.
The suspect was released by the court on Thursday, because the victim’s family asked to have the charges dropped, court officials said. Takeo government and police officials say they were not notified of the suspect’s release.
Takeo Governor Kep Chuk Tema and other provincial officials criticized Nop Hov’s release, saying the suspect likely was freed after bribing court officials.
“It’s is a longtime bad habit of Takeo court,” Kep Chuk Tema said. “The suspect was released because of a pay off. If there is no bribe, there will be no release.”
Investigating Judge Sok Leang signed the document releasing Nop Hov, saying that there wasn’t enough evidence to detain him.
“The families of the victim and suspect arrived at the court asking for the charges to be dropped,” Sok Leang said. “When the prosecutor dropped the charge, I cannot detain the suspect any longer because it abuses the law.”
Mey Sakhan, chief prosecutor of the court, said he just “temporarily” dropped the charge because there was a lack of evidence. He added that police had arrested the wrong person while the real perpetrator is still at large. “The right one ran away,” Mey Sakhan said.
But Chhun Sareth, a judicial police officer who led the arrest of Nop Hov, said court officials use the excuse of a wrongful arrest to release suspects.
“We have enough documents to prove the crime,” Chhun Sareth said.
Chhun Sareth added that the suspect confessed to killing Kea Heng; 18 other men arrested in connection with the murder also said Nop Hov was the killer.
Takeo Police Chief Nou Sangwa said he would notify Hun Sen about Nop Hov’s release because “I cannot stand to see the court release a criminal.”
Nou Sangwa said he would also file a complaint to the Supreme Council of Magistracy, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice.