Police Searching for Third Man Tied to Alleged al-Qaida Letters

Police are searching for a third foreigner in connection to threatening letters sent to the Australian, British and US embassies purportedly on behalf of terrorist group al-Qaida, according to a court official.

Judge Ke Sakhorn, deputy president of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said yesterday that police were looking for the man but declined to offer any details about his identity or possible whereabouts.

He said two men arrested in the case last month had denied any knowledge of the letters under questioning and that their lawyers claimed their clients had been framed as part of a business dispute.

Judge Sakhorn said DP Paudyal, 44, of Nepal and Rafigul Islam, 42, of Bangladesh, were arrested on June 2 and charged the next day with threatening internationally protected persons, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. Mr Paudyal was also charged with entering Cambodia illegally because he did not have a passport.

“They are part of the Asian al-Qaida terrorist network and terrorism is a serious problem for the world so we cannot accept this,” he said. “Although they do not confess that they did it, we have enough evidence to charge them with terrorism. If there were not enough evidence, police could not arrest them.”

A deputy prosecutor said last month that the letters bore six apparently fake signatures and warned the embassies that al-Qaida operatives in Phnom Penh could cause them damage.

Mr Paudyal’s lawyer El Vannak said his client denied signing the letters.

“He did not do it,” Mr Vannak said. “It was a business dispute with a foreigner.”

He said consular officials were in the process of issuing Mr Paudyal a new passport, which Mr Paudyal claimed to have lost.

Chea Sophy, Mr Rafigul’s lawyer, said his client also denied signing or sending the letters and also claimed he was framed as part of a business dispute.

Interior Ministry officials were unavailable for comment yesterday. At the time of the arrests in June, the three embassies declined to comment on the continuing investigations. The US Embassy said US missions around the world were subject to periodic threats, which were assessed in connection with local authorities.


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