Shamed Police Official Denied Bail, Retried Over Murder Plot

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday morning denied a bail request from former municipal penal police officer Hang Vuthy and in the afternoon retried him over his role in a 2003 conspiracy to murder national military police commander Sao Sokha.

In 2009, Mr. Vuthy was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison for the unsuccessful plot to kill General Sokha.

At the time of the conviction, Mr. Vuthy was a fugitive, having escaped from Prey Sar prison in 2006, where he had been serving a 45-year sentence for gunning down a municipal court judge in broad daylight in 2003.

In 2012, Mr. Vuthy abruptly turned himself into authorities, claiming he had been forced to flee.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Vuthy requested that the court release him on bail because he was ill.

“I have pus in my intestines and I am coughing up blood. I want to treat my illness,” he told the court, reasoning that because he had previously turned himself in, he would not attempt to flee.

“If I wanted to run, I would not have come back after I had escaped for seven years,” he said.

Deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth told the court Mr. Vuthy should not be released on bail because he was involved with multiple cases. “It will cause difficulty for court procedures next time,” Mr. Bunvisoth said.

Ultimately, Presiding Judge Top Chhun Heng decided that the court would not release him.

In the afternoon, Mr. Vuthy returned to the court because he had requested a retrial for his 2009 conviction.

The defendant told the court that before he was sent to Prey Sar to serve the 45-year sentence for murder, military police tortured him in order to extract a false confession about the failed plot to kill Gen. Sokha.

“I would like to assert that the answers were extracted by force and I was hit until I lost consciousness,” he said. “Then they took my hand to thumbprint.”

Mr. Vuthy was convicted in that case along with five other police officials, three of whom also said during their 2009 trial that police had tortured them to obtain confessions.

Chan Huon, Mr. Vuthy’s lawyer, said the court did not have enough evidence to convict his client, citing the forced confessions and an anonymous 2003 letter implicating him.

“I ask the prosecution to drop the charge and ask the presiding judge to decide to let Hang Vuthy, a.k.a. Yom Reach, go free,” Mr. Huon said.

Mr. Bunvisoth, the deputy prosecutor, said the court had enough evidence to uphold its original conviction of Mr. Vuthy.

As prison guards escorted Mr. Vuthy to a prison van in the court basement, he again asserted his innocence.

“I did not do anything wrong, it was fabricated,” he said. “If I did wrong, I would not have come back.”

Mr. Chhun Heng, the presiding judge, said a verdict would be announced on April 30.

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