Retired King: JI Suspects Did Not Get Fair Trial

Retired King Norodom Siha­nouk has said the men sentenced to life in prison last week for al­leg­ed links to the regional Jemaah Is­lam­iyah militant group were convicted without sufficient evidence and should be pardoned.

An alleged plot to attack the US and British embassies in Phnom Penh—for which Cambodian Cham Muslim Sman Esma El and Thai na­tionals Abdul Azi Haji Chi­ming and Muhammad Yala­ludin Ma­­ding were convicted—was “imaginary,” the former king said.

“In condemning to prison for life of Cham Compatriots for an imaginary ‘terrorism,’ without any serious proof, it is to do an act of very cruel injustice,” he wrote Tuesday in a message on his Web site. “We reach this infernal con­dem­­na­tion in order to please certain great powers,” he added, ap­par­­ently referring to the US and the UK.

“The Cambodia of [the Sang­kum Reastr Niyum regime] would ne­ver have accepted to debase it­self before great powers and be­fore their MONEY,” he wrote. The “false terrorists,” he added, “de­­serve to be pardoned.”

The men were arrested in 2003, based on a US intelligence report.

Following the Dec 29 trial, the US and British embassies ap­plauded the Municipal Court’s verdict, saying it was a victory in their war against terrorism. The case against the men relied on tes­ti­mo­ny from a witness who said he  over­heard two suspects plan a bomb attack on the em­bas­sies in Eng­lish, though he ad­mit­ted he did not speak English himself.

Kao Soupha, the lawyer for the two Thai nationals, welcomed No­ro­dom Sihanouk’s comments Wednesday. “I agree 100 percent with the King’s idea,” he said. “There is no evi­dence to give them imprisonment for life.” He said he would launch an appeal on behalf of the three men this week.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith declined to comment on whether the government would heed the call to pardon the men. But, he said, “If the King has more evidence, I think it is better to bring the evidence to the court.” He de­nied that action was ta­ken against the men to appease the US or any other country. “This is a neutral state,” Khieu Kanharith said. “We have nothing to do with the US.”

 

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