Suspects Still Behind Bars for Obscure Anti-Gov’t Bomb Plot

The case of five alleged members of the so-called Tiger Head Move­ment, accused of planting bombs in the capital, has been kicked back to an investigating judge due to a lack of evidence, the Phnom Penh Mun­icipal Court ann­ounced yesterday.

Instead of reading the anticipated verdict, Judge Chhay Kong said there was not enough evidence to reach a decision in the case and add­ed that the investigating judges failed to question enough witnesses.

All five suspects in the all-but-un­known organization faced senten­ces of between 20 and 30 years in prison though none of the bombs caused any damage or loss of life.

“I decided for a reinvestigation in this case and the defendants will remain in jail,” he said during the 30­-­minute hearing.

Contacted after the hearing, Judge Kong declined to explain why the suspects—Som Ek, 49, Loeuk Bunnhean, 57, Pov Vannara, 57, Phy Saving, 49, and Chea Kimyan, 45—were still behind bars when there was not enough evidence to put them on trial, telling a reporter to go and examine the cri­m­­inal code.

“I cannot explain why the court still detains the defendants in jail,” he said by telephone.

All five were arrested earlier this year after police discovered small ex­plosive devices outside the De­fense Ministry and near the TV3 tel­­evision studios in January. Auth­orities safely detonated the small devices. Police also linked the group to a bomb placed at the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument in 2007, which also didn’t explode properly.

Authorities charged the men with recruiting terrorists and planting the devices, though no reason was ever given as to what the so-called group aimed to achieve or what their de­mands were. The accused have maintained their innocence through­­­out the trial and investigation into the obscure group.

The trial of the men began on Nov 25 and their subsequent days in court were not announced.

While in court, Judge Kong cited a notebook found in the Phnom Penh room of Mr Bunnhean, which allegedly had a handwritten plan to kill Prime Minister Hun Sen with an explosion in 2006. Mr Bunnhean denied concocting and writing the plan but later admitted to spying on the so-called Tiger Head Movement for the Ministry of Defense.

Judge Kong said the situation ill­ustrated a lack of sufficient examination by investigating judges.

“The court will call the other people who deal with this case for ques­t­ioning about who wrote in Bunn­hean’s notebook,” he said.

Uoch Sophal, an attorney representing Mr Bunnhean, said he welcomed the decision and felt it was ap­­propriate for his client.

“The court must call people who are involved with this case for questioning,” he said yesterday after the judge’s announcement.

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