The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday began the trial of six people for their involvement in clashes that broke out between civilians and police near Monivong Bridge after a protest on September 12.
The six men were all charged with intentional violence with aggravating circumstances and causing damage to property during the clashes, which broke out on the last day of a three-day series of demonstrations by the opposition CNRP after police refused to let people cross the bridge.
“The six accused were present at the scene, even though they deny having committed any offense,” said deputy prosecutor Ly Sophana, adding that the suspects had allegedly thrown sticks and stones, injuring police.
Of the 49 police officials who are plaintiffs in the case, 39 were present in court Monday. They each told Mr. Sophana they are not seeking compensation.
Major General Sok Khemarin, director of the department of order at the General Commissariat of National Police, said his hand was hurt when his group, which was stationed on the bridge, was confronted by protesters.
“More than 100 protesters threw stones on the bridge to attack the police,” Maj. Gen. Khemarin said in court.
After blocking the bridge, which people were trying to cross to go home, police fired tear gas and live rounds into the crowd, killing bystander Mao Sok Chan, 29, who was shot in the head. One injured man had a bullet lodged in his leg; another was shot in the arm.
Rights groups decried the disproportionate use of force. An investigation into police fire has yielded no results and no arrests have been made for the death or gunshot injuries.
In court, bailed 17-year-old defendant Ek Channou denied the charges against him.
“During the clash, I had come from Freedom Park to go home at Chak Angre Krom commune, but I was stuck in a traffic jam near Monivong Boulevard,” the teenager said.
“So when I heard and saw the police firing tear gas, I fled to hide inside a gas station bathroom. It is injustice that I have been charged by the court, because I didn’t commit any offense. I ask the court to please acquit me,” he said.
Vietnamese national Nguyen Di Tek, 20, also protested his innocence and claimed Monday that a confession had been extracted under torture.
“Police beat me with electric batons four to five times until I confessed to the crime,” he said.
One of the four defense lawyers, Sam Sokunthea, said her clients had simply been trying to get home that night.
“The police couldn’t even immediately remember their faces, and there is no evidence, such as a video clip, to prove that my client committed the offense,” she said.
Judge Seng Neang said a verdict would be handed down on Friday.