Sentences Upheld for 3 Linked to ’03 Bomb Plots

The Supreme Court on Wednes­day altered, but upheld, an Appeal Court decision against three men convicted for their involvement in a supposed plot to bomb the British and US embassies in Phnom Penh.

The Appeal Court in 2006 confirmed the 2004 life sentences of Thai nationals Abdul Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Ma­ding and Cambodian Sman Esma El, found guilty of conspi­r­ing in the alleged 2003 plot by the Is­lamic militant group Je­maah Islamiyah.

“The Supreme Court upholds the Appeal Court’s verdict, but alters the charge from conspiring in a terrorism plot to colluding in the terrorism plot,” presiding Judge Khim Ponn announced.

Immediately following the verdict, the three men were hurried to a Prey Sar prison van—before a Thai translator could relay the ruling.

Leaving the court, Chiming said he was unable to comment on the decision because he was unaware of the verdict.

“No, not yet. I don’t know about everything yet,” he told a reporter.

Sman Isma El proclaimed his in­nocence as guards accompanied him to the prison van.

“I only believe in Islam—I didn’t plan to kill anyone,” he said, adding that the only evidence against him was a report provided by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. “The only evidence against me was a letter from an American.”

Defense lawyer Kao Soupha, ab­sent from the court Wed­nesday, called the verdict against his three clients an “injustice” and the decision to alter the verdict nonsense.

“They still will serve jail terms for life,” he said.

The US Em­bas­sy welcomed the verdict and thanked the Cambo­dian government for its cooperation against international terrorism.

“We believe the conclusion of this case marks an important step in fighting terrorism in Southeast Asia,” a spokesman wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by James Welsh)

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