Six construction workers were convicted on Thursday of the rape and murder of a karaoke parlor worker last year and sentenced to between 20 and 30 years each, while a seventh man whom the others identified as the lone assailant was cleared of the charges.
The body of Vong Kunthea, 26, was found nearly a year ago, wrapped in a hammock in an empty lot in Pur Senchey district’s Kakab commune. She had been beaten and strangled.
Moeun Khey, 15, and Mam Vannan, 17, also known as Choy, were sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of murder accompanied by rape, Presiding Judge Keo Mony said.
Chin Navy, 29; Lem Luch, 20; Khat Sour, 18; and Nang Navy, 19, were sentenced to 30 years in prison each on charges of murder with aggravating circumstances, the judge said.
Charges were dropped against a seventh man, Prey Soklak, 54, whom the other men claimed was the lone perpetrator.
Mr. Soklak, who found the victim’s body and alerted authorities, was questioned in July 2015 but was not initially arrested. The six young men were arrested days later at a nearby construction site and confessed to district police that they had raped and killed the woman.
Months later, in November, Mr. Soklak was arrested and also confessed, though he retracted his confession during the trial.
While on trial, the six other men also recanted their earlier confessions, either claiming they had confessed under duress or been tricked into a false confession.
At a hearing last month, deputy prosecutor Kham Sophary said the group had accused Mr. Soklak of telling them that they would be released if they confessed to the crime.
After Judge Mony announced the verdict, Nang Navy began to sob.
“Such injustice! Such injustice in the court! Mother, I did nothing!” he yelled.
Loung Sokha, a lawyer for Mr. Luch, Mr. Khey and Mr. Sour, decried the verdict, claiming the evidence was far too circumstantial for such a heavy-handed sentence.