Prison Doesn’t Deliver Defendant for Appeal

The Appeals Court suspended the hearing of a man convicted of accidentally killing his uncle—a Sam Rainsy Party deputy commune chief—after Kompong Speu provincial prison failed to bring the defendant to his court hearing, the defendant’s lawyer said on Wednesday.

In a trial heavily criticized by human rights groups, Him Vu­thea was sentenced to two years in prison on April 28, 2003, after confessing and then recanting his guilt in the death of his uncle, Tit Keo Monyroath, who was shot in Sambo commune on Nov 16, 2004.

During the initial trial, Him Vuthea said he was forced to a confession by police, and that his uncle was ambushed by two gunmen.

Him Vuthea’s lawyer Hong Kim Suon of the Cambodian Defenders Project said the presiding judge told him the prison guard didn’t bring the defendant to the scheduled court hearing Wednesday. As a result, he said, the court suspended the hearing for at least a month.

“I don’t know whether it was a mistake on the part of the court or the prison, but I suspect that the court wants to force my client to serve the rest of his prison term,” Hong Kim Suon said.

Him Vuthea’s retroactive sentence is set to finish Nov 21, Hong Kim Suon said.

Kompong Speu Prison Direc­tor Kak Savonn said he never received an order to send Him Vuthea to court.

“I don’t know why the court didn’t ask me, but up to now I have not received any such order,” he said.

Judge You Bunleng declined to comment on the case, but the Appeals Court clerk, Meng Hau, said he sent the order to the prison himself.

“I don’t know where the order is right now,” he said, adding that it will take at least one month to reschedule the trial.

Hong Kim Suon said his client still professes his innocence.

“My client continues to deny that he killed the victim,” Hong Kim Suon said. “He told me he was threatened by police.”


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