Court Upholds Verdict Against Heng Pov

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the convictions of disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov and two accomplices for a failed conspiracy to murder national military police commander Sao Sokha in 2003, but acquitted a former municipal police officer as there was no evidence linking him to the plot.

Judge You Ottara, one of five trial magistrates, ruled that Mr. Pov, Ly Rasy and Hang Vutha had failed to disprove their guilt, but said there was no evidence that Prum Sophearith was culpable, as he was not named in the anonymous 2003 letter that implicated the other defendants, or in any of their testimonies.

“The Supreme Court upholds the verdict of the Court of Appeal on December 2, 2010, except regarding the conviction and punishment of Prum Sophearith, which the court rejects and hereby acquits [him] of the charge and orders the police to release [him], unless he is detained for other criminal cases,” Judge Ottara said.

But Mr. Sophearith did not walk free. The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled on another case involving the defendants, when it upheld the verdicts against Mr. Sophearith, Ly Rasy, and Hang Vutha for conspiring to murder municipal court Judge Sok Sethamony in 2003, for which they each received 15-year sentences.

Outside the courtroom on Friday, Mr. Pov said the court’s decision was wrong, but that requesting a review would be pointless.

“I want to thank the penal judges who did not need to call any witnesses to uphold my sentence and for deciding that an anonymous letter was sufficient evidence to convict me,” Mr. Pov said.

“I have no trust in the Cambodian courts but I will take my case to the National Assembly and human rights organizations who I hope will find justice for me.”

The once-powerful police chief is serving a combined sentence of 98 years in prison for a slew of crimes. Mr. Pov has consistently protested his innocence and claims the charges were fabricated by former National Police commissioner Hok Lundy, a bitter rival who died in a helicopter crash in 2008.

During incendiary testimony at the Supreme Court hearings earlier this month, Mr. Pov also accused Lieutenant General Mok Chito, the current director of the Interior Ministry’s central judicial department, of masterminding his incarceration by fabricating evidence, torturing witnesses and pressuring the courts.

On Friday, he made further allegations and said he would ask the National Assembly to reopen numerous murder cases that involved Lt. Gen. Chito and were swept under the carpet by the municipal court.

“Mok Chito has killed many people. However, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor knew about the cases and did not take action according to the law. I intend to ask the National Assembly to reopen their cases,” he said.

Mr. Pov claimed that Oum Samkheng, a former penal police officer who was also convicted for the conspiracy plot against Gen. Sokha but died in prison, was tortured under orders of Lt. Gen. Chito—because he had witnessed his former superior murder a man over a love rivalry—and died as a result of his wounds.

“The victim loved a woman who worked as a Carlsberg beer promotion girl but she was a girlfriend of Mok Chito,” he said. “Oum Samkheng saw Mr. Mok Chito bring the victim behind Cuba High School [now Chbar Ampov High School] and shoot him dead, and he went to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to be a witness after the victim’s family tried to bring charges [against Lt. Gen. Chito].”

Mr. Pov said Oum Samkheng was beaten while in jail until he coughed up blood and never recovered from his injuries.

The other defendants also testified that Lt. Gen. Chito pressured them to inculpate Mr. Pov as the ringleader of the crimes they were all convicted for and ordered their torture when they did not cooperate.

They also berated the Appeal Court and Supreme Court for failing to summon Hang Vuthy—who is also serving time over the same crimes and is the brother of Mr. Vutha—as he had evidence that could prove Lt. Gen. Chito had helped frame them. Mr. Vuthy, sentenced to 45 year in prison for gunning down Judge Sok Sethamony, successfully escaped from prison in 2006 but six years later turned himself in and said he had been forced to escape.

Outside the courtroom on Friday, Sun Sophorn, the 34-year-old sister of Mr. Vuthy, said that her brother was not granted an appeal because he refused when pressured by Lt. Gen. Chito to give false evidence in return for his release.

“When my brother escaped, they accused him of breaking out of prison to escape his sentence but in fact he was trying to escape from Mr. Mok Chito, who had already ordered other people to get him released from jail and he was afraid they would kill him,” Ms. Sophorn said.

Lt. Gen. Chito hung up on a reporter when contacted Friday.

Gen. Sokha declined to answer questions about the case.

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