Retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s official biographer, Julio Jeldres, was convicted in absentia Friday by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Judge Iv Kimsry ordered Jeldres, 54, to pay approximately $2,000 in fines and $2,500 in compensation to the prime minister for comments published in the April 7, 2005 Cambodia Daily article “Retired King’s Biographer Lashes Out at PM.”
Jeldres’ lawyer Mao Samvutheary requested that prosecutor Sok Roeun drop the charges on the grounds that the e-mail in which Jeldres made his comments was sent to “groups of friends and people he knows” and was not intended for publication.
Cambodia Daily Editor in Chief Kevin Doyle told the court that the article containing excerpts from Jeldres’ email was published under the impression that it was a public statement and it was only discovered later that the email was personal correspondence.
Sok Roeun argued that by sending the e-mail to multiple people, Jeldres had made the message public.
“A secret is only one person,” the prosecutor said. “Is it a secret if sent to friends?”
In an separate case Friday, the chief editor of a Monesakar Khmer newspaper was convicted in absentia of disinformation for a June 13 article that accused Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption.
Dam Sithek, 35, was ordered to pay $2,000 fine and $2,500 in compensation to Sok An.
Dam Sithek said later by phone that he had not attended the trial because he did not expect justice would be served, adding that he did not recognize the verdict and would refuse to pay the fine.