Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy in absentia on charges that he defamed and spread disinformation about Foreign Min-ister Hor Namhong.
The case stems from a 2008 complaint by Mr Namhong alleging that Mr Rainsy libeled him by accusing him of collusion with the Khmer Rouge at the Phnom Penh prison camp known as Boeng Trabek. Mr Rainsy was charged with the offenses in 2008 under the Untac code.
Mr Namhong has already won three other lawsuits arising from comments and accusations made about his time at Boeng Trabek, including one filed against Mr Rainsy in France, where the opposition leader published accusations against the foreign minister in a memoir.
In court yesterday, the clerk read out the May 2010 decision of the French Appeal Court in favor of Mr Namhong. The clerk also read statements from four witnesses on Mr Namhong’s behalf, including For-eign Ministry Secretary of State Long Visalo and former S-21 prison commandant Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch. All the statements corroborated Mr Namhong’s claim that he was simply chosen by the Khmer Rouge as a prisoner representative and go-between.
Duch, who was convicted by the Khmer Rouge tribunal last year of crimes against humanity and war crimes, shares a lawyer with Mr Namhong. That lawyer, Kar Savuth, asked the court yesterday to fine Mr Rainsy $2,500 and order him to publish an apology in The Daily and two other newspapers.
Deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot said there was ample evidence to prove that Mr Namhong had been a mere prisoner at Boeng Tra-bek. “This action of Sam Rainsy really had enough characteristics of defamation on Hor Namhong,” he told the court.
Mr Rainsy’s lawyer, Chou Choun-gy, did not attend court yesterday as he said his client was “not interested in the case.”
Mr Rainsy already faces 12 years in prison on convictions for including incitement, disinformation and destruction of public property. Judge Seng Neang said a verdict in the de-famation case would be handed down on April 11.