In questioning conducted by two court officials on Monday evening, Prime Minister Hun Sen denied that he defamed SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua in a public speech he made on April 4, the premier’s lawyer Ky Tech said Tuesday.
Ky Tech said that Phnom Penh Municipal Court Prosecutor Yet Chakriya and Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bun Chea questioned the prime minister at the Council of Ministers building on Tuesday evening over a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Ms Sochua, who claims that insulting remarks made in the April 4 speech were directed at her, despite the prime minister not having named the target of his verbal attack.
Ms Sochua and her attorney, Kong Sam Onn, were both questioned last week by the municipal court’s Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun regarding the premier’s counter defamation lawsuit, which the prime minister launched against both on the grounds that they, in claiming that he had defamed the opposition lawmaker had, in fact, defamed him.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] said that he made the statement, but he was not referring to Mu Sochua,” Mr Tech said, adding that the prosecutors had summoned the premier to appear in court on Monday but then agreed to question him at the Council of Ministers because the premier had security concerns about visiting the municipal court.
“To have Samdech [Hun Sen] go to the court, there must be 24-hour security inside and outside the court before his presence, because he is a prime minister,” Mr Tech said.
“In order to avoid public confusion that [prime ministerial] bodyguards had surrounded the court, and people might think that it would affect the court’s independence, the prosecutors agreed to go to another place,” Mr Tech continued, adding that questioning outside the court complied with civil code procedure.
Contacted by telephone, lawyer Kong Sam Onn, who is being sued by the premier, said that such questioning at the Council constituted “special treatment.” However, he said that the most important issue is that the court now provides justice for his client.
On Tuesday morning, Cambodian Bar Association inspectors questioned Ky Tech, who is a former president of the bar association, concerning his request to disbar Ms Sochua’s lawyer, Mr Sam Onn, over alleged unethical behavior in his defense of Ms Sochua, particularly a public statement in which he said that the prime minister had defamed his client.
“I told the inspectors that I am continuing to pursue my complaint,” said Mr Tech, who maintains that Mr Sam Onn should not have commented on the prime minister until the court had ruled on the case. Mr Sam Onn has said that he was simply representing his client and there was nothing that prohibited him from speaking on the case.
Bar association inspector Hem Socheat confirmed that two inspectors questioned Mr Tech for about 20 minutes.
“The inspectors asked him whether he wanted to withdraw, compromise or continue the complaint. [Mr Tech] told the inspectors that he is continuing to complain…he also requested the inspectors to forward the case to the Cambodian Bar Association’s council,” Mr Socheat said.
If Mr Sam Onn is found to have violated the bar’s code of ethics he will be suspended from working as a lawyer for two years, Mr Socheat added.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the court had discriminated against the opposition party by not requiring the prime minister to be questioned in court.
“Everyone should be equal regardless if they are simple people or the prime minister. Everyone should be given fair treatment,” Mr Sovann said of the courts.