Sam Rainsy hearing delayed a second-time

The Court of Appeal postponed the hearing of opposition leader Sam Rainsy for a second time yesterday at the request of the two villagers convicted alongside Mr Rainsy of illegally removing border posts, because they do not have a defense lawyer.

Prum Chea, 41, one of the two villagers, said he could not attend the hearing today because he did not have a lawyer, adding that he asked the court to delay the hearing until his former lawyer returns from an overseas trip.

Mr Chea recently rejected the lawyer assigned to him and his co-defendant, Meas Srey, 40, by the Cambodian Defenders Project after their former lawyer, Sam Sokong, went abroad. Mr Sokong walked out of a Court of Appeal hearing last month upon learning that the two villagers had not been transported to court to testify. After the walkout, the hearing was rescheduled for yesterday.

Ms Srey said yesterday she agreed with Mr Chea’s decision to ask the court for a delay.

“I did not want the Court of Appeal to hear my case today,” she said.

Khun Leang Meng, Court of Appeal judge, said the court respects the prisoners’ decision and has rescheduled the hearing to Aug 30.

He added that the two villagers must immediately ask Mr Sokong to apply to represent them at the rescheduled hearing, as the court will not delay the hearing a third time even if they have no lawyer.

Chou Choungy, Mr Rainsy’s lawyer, said that he supported the prisoners’ request for a delay.

“It’s the right of the prisoner to ask the court to delay their case, because they would be unable to respond to the judge’s questions without a lawyer,” he said.

Government lawyer Chan Sokyeang said that while he does not oppose the prisoners’ request, the delay wastes time and means that the jailed villagers will spend more time in prison before their hearing.

Mr Rainsy was convicted in January of damaging public property and incitement to racial discrimination after he led a group of Svay Rieng villagers, including Mr Chea and Ms Srey, in removing six temporary border demarcation posts during a protest. Mr Chea and Ms Srey are currently serving one-year jail sentences in Svay Rieng Provincial Prison.


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