A French court has dismissed a defamation complaint filed by former Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong against opposition leader Sam Rainsy, the latest decision in a long-running legal battle between the two.
Currently in self-imposed exile to avoid a two-year prison sentence handed down by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over a defamation case brought by Mr. Namhong in Cambodia, Mr. Rainsy said the latest ruling was proof that Cambodia’s courts were political tools.
“Today, before the French tribunal, Hor Namhong again lost his defamation lawsuit against Sam Rainsy who has accused him of being an accomplice of the Khmer Rouge at Boeung [Trabek] prison under the Pol Pot regime,” Mr. Rainsy wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.
“However, the Hun Sen government, using its Kangaroo court, continues to persecute Sam Rainsy—who was expelled from the National Assembly last November—on the basis of Hor Namhong’s groundless judicial complaints,” he added.
Mr. Rainsy explained in an email, however, that his lawyers in Paris had successfully argued to have the case thrown out on technical grounds.
“It was confusing and misleading,” Mr. Rainsy said of Mr. Namhong’s complaint. “My lawyers attacked them on that point and won the case. As a consequence, Hor Namhong’s whole judicial complaint was declared null or invalid.”
Mr. Namhong’s complaint was filed after Mr. Rainsy refused to apologize for his claims that Mr. Namhong was complicit in crimes committed at the Khmer Rouge prison.
“It is Hor Namhong who should apologize to the souls and the families of the victims who got killed by the Khmer Rouge at the Boeng Trabek prison in the late 1970s because he acted as a Kapo and denounced them to their torturers and killers,” Mr. Rainsy wrote on Facebook in November.
His sentence for the initial defamation conviction was handed down in 2011, and was widely believed to have been pardoned. However, amid escalating political tension last year, the municipal court acted on a request by Mr. Namhong’s lawyer to implement the prison sentence while Mr. Rainsy was traveling abroad, and he has since remained outside the country.
The French court ruling comes more than seven years after Mr. Namhong won a case in the Paris courts over almost identical claims, although the judgement against Mr. Rainsy was later overturned by a higher French court.
Mr. Namhong’s lawyer, Kar Savuth, said on Sunday that he was not aware of his client ever losing a case against the opposition leader.
“All verdicts that His Excellency [Mr. Namhong] gave to me do not show that he has lost a case,” he said, adding that Mr. Rainsy’s claims to the contrary were “his business.”
Chin Malin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said he did not wish to comment on the decision made by courts in Paris.
“But our Cambodian judicial system made the decision based on the facts, laws and evidence,” he said.
Judges in Paris declined to comment on the case.
(Additional reporting by Aisha Down)
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