After hearing more than four hours of evidence in the forgery and disinformation trial of self-exiled opposition SRP leader Sam Rainsy yesterday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Ke Sakhorn delayed issuing a verdict until Sept 23.
Mr Rainsy was tried in absentia yesterday over a government complaint that he forged public documents and spread disinformation earlier this year by publishing documents on the Internet to bolster his claim that Vietnam was encroaching on Cambodian territory in Svay Rieng province.
By law, if found guilty of forging a public document Mr Rainsy could face up to 18 years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million riel (about $2,500).
At a tightly guarded municipal court yesterday, reporters were forced to listen to proceedings on speakers set up outside the courtroom, as seats inside were limited to officials and SRP members.
During proceedings, government lawyer Ky Tech said that a map placed by Mr Rainsy on the SRP website in February had been falsified with the goal of making the government lose face and affecting the friendship between Cambodia and Vietnam.
“As I am the government lawyer, I request that the court demand 100 million riel (about $25,000) from Sam Rainsy and try him by the rule of law,” Mr Tech said.
But Mr Rainsy’s lawyer Choung Choungy argued that the map placed on the SRP website had originated from the Google Maps website and was not an official public document. “The map my client used was not an official map as he took it from the website of Google,” Mr Choungy said.
Mr Choungy told the court that the charges against his client should be dropped as there was insufficient evidence to prove his guilt, and added that an independent committee should have been set up to test whether Mr Rainsy’s published map was correct.
Outside the trial yesterday, SRP spokesman Yim Sovann was critical of the court’s decision to bar journalists from the courtroom. “The journalists should be allowed inside…it seems like this was not a public trial,” he said.