In a closely guarded ruling, Phnom Penh Municipal Court declined last month to detain a former government official charged with accepting $30,000 in bribes during a land dispute.
Seng Yean, former deputy director-general of inspections at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection, was fired by Prime Minister Hun Sen in July after an internal government inquiry found he had taken the bribe to influence his findings as part of a inquest into a land dispute in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district.
Mr Yean denies the charges.
In a ruling dated Jan 26, Judge Sin Visal said his investigation was incomplete.
“Upon completion of questioning and a review of the case file, [the court] finds that the case is not completely investigated yet,” Judge Visal wrote. The court “decided not to detain the charged person provisionally.”
Judge Visal in December denied accusations he had improperly denied lawyers for villagers in the case from accessing the case file.
Mr Yean was charged in August with accepting a bribe from a woman named Dy Proem and 120 villagers during his investigation of a dispute in which the villagers claimed to own 6.675 hectares in Kakab commune’s Kakab village.
On Jan 25, Mr Yean told the court in a statement that a supposed confession he had given to ministry investigators Long Norin and Yi Mao in May had been false and extracted under coercion.
“I would like to deny my confession to Mr Long Norin, who wrote it and read it to me and then forced me to give my thumbprint. Mr Long Norin and Mr Yi Mao told me that they had obtained an endorsement from Samdech Prime Minister. That’s why I decided to give a thumbprint.”
Mr Norin could not be reached yesterday. However Mr Mao denied Mr Yean’s charges.
“When we questioned him, he was in his senior position as deputy director general. None of the investigation members dared to threaten him,” said Mr Mao.
Judge Visal declined to comment when contacted by a reporter yesterday.