The lawyer for Richard Kiri Kim, the Cambodian-American who has confessed to leading the attack on government offices two weeks ago, will tell the court his client is insane.
David Chaniawa, also a Cambodian-American, said Thursday he will also argue that the charge of terrorism should be dropped, and replaced with treason.
“I think my client is guilty of insanity,” said David Chaniawa, adding his client appears to be physically healthy. “He still thinks he is a commander. But there is no way. He has no capacity to be a commander. He is not a soldier. It’s almost like he’s in a dream.”
Kiri Kim was working in the NGO community before he became a Freedom Fighter, joining Cando, an organization made up of Cambodian-Americans who returned to their homeland to help rebuild the country.
Kiri Kim and three other Cambodian-Americans who are accused of being members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters have been charged with acts of terrorism and membership in an illegal armed force—offenses that carry life sentences. Chhun Yasith, the alleged leader of the CFF, and the two others have been charged in absentia.
A week before the Nov 24 attack that left as many as eight dead, Kiri Kim told his family he would go back to the US in a week. His family had no idea Kiri Kim was involved with the CFF, Chaniawa said.
Chaniawa said Kiri Kim, whom he met with Thursday morning, is aware of rumors that he colluded with the ruling CPP and that the CFF think he may have betrayed the anti-communist organization by giving the government the CFF attack plans.
“He didn’t understand why people were saying that because he is part of an organization that is against [Prime Minister] Hun Sen,” Chaniawa said. “He is still loyal to CFF and he still thinks Chhun Yasith is his leader.”
Kiri Kim says he wants to meet with Chhun Yasith to talk to him about the attack and what has happened since then, according to Chaniawa. Kiri Kim is especially concerned about the alleged CFF members who have been arrested since the attack.
“He thinks there may be a CFF member who worked for the government, but he didn’t name anybody,” Chaniawa said.
Uk Savuth, chief prosecutor at Phnom Penh municipal court, said he does not believe Kiri Kim is insane, and said the court will continue its work without considering that assertion. He also questioned how Kiri Kim could have kept numerous CFF documents on his laptop computer if he was crazy.
“If he had mental problems, there should be a medical certificate to prove it and he should of had it a long time ago, not at this moment after he’s been charged,” Uk Savuth said.
Chaniawa, who has been Kiri Kim’s lawyer since Nov 29, said the Ministry of Interior has questioned his client without a lawyer present, which he says does not fit the definition of due process.
The Ministry of Interior was also supposed to transfer all the documents, equipment and other items seized from Kiri Kim to the court, but it has not done so yet.
Neth Savoeun, deputy director general of the national police, said authorities interrogated Kiri Kim alone in the beginning because the suspect did not have a lawyer.
“The police do not ban the lawyer from hearing the interrogation,” he said.
Also on Thursday, the Secretariat of Joint inter-Ministerial Commission for Tracking and Cracking Down on Armed Terrorist Groups disputed the number of arrests of alleged rebel members reported by human rights groups. The commission was formed by Hun Sen to investigate the possible collusion of government employees with the CFF.
Om Yienteng, an adviser to Hun Sen and spokesman for the 19-member commission, said only 66 suspects have been arrested, with 47 charged and 19 released.
Human Rights Watch recently issued a statement, putting the number of arrests at more than 200. The group also said it was concerned that the CFF may be used as a pretext to arrest the government’s political opponents.
One human rights group said it had also recorded about 200 arrests so far, with 47 charged in Phnom Penh municipal court.
“I don’t know where the government is getting its number,” the rights worker said.
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