Teacher’s Family Pushes for Conviction Hearing

The family and legal team of Tieng Narith, 32, who has been in Prey Sar prison since November 2006, are pushing for the Court of Appeal to hear his conviction for teaching from a self-written textbook critical of the government.

Tieng Narith, who formerly taught political science at Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University, was convicted in Feb­ruary 2007 and sentenced to 2 1/2 years for teaching from his book, which links top government officials to acts of political violence.

His lawyer, Hong Kimsuon, said Wednesday that he hasn’t gotten a response from a letter he sent to Pros­ecutor General Hanrot Raken in March pushing for the case to be heard.

“I dare not say whether this is political pressure or not,” said Hong Kimsuon, a lawyer with the Cambo­dia Defenders Project.

Tieng Narith’s mother, Kong So­phon, 58, who publicly apologized to Prime Minister Hun Sen on her son’s behalf in March 2007, ap­pealed Wednesday for the Appeal Court to move forward on his case.

“He just criticized for the nation to be better,” she said.

Tieng Narith’s father, Tieng Yeang, 60, blamed the court’s inaction on the fact that his family wasn’t able to pay bribes.

“The court is like this. We don’t have any money for them,” he said.

Appeal Court chief clerk Pun Savatt said Wednesday that the court has not been intentionally de­laying Tieng Narith’s appeal, but is overwhelmed by their caseload.

“We cannot, whatsoever, do it on time,” he said, adding that he didn’t know when Tieng Narith’s case would be heard.

Lao Mong Hay, a senior re­search­er at the Asian Human Rights Commission, emphasized Wednesday the need to expand the capacity of the Court of Appeal, as well as designate a time frame within which cases must be heard.

“There is no fixed time limit for decision for the Court of Appeal on the defendant’s appeal against his sentence…. According to international norms and standards, any unreasonable delay is a violation of the right of the accused,” he said.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kan­harith said that the government had sued the former teacher in order to clear the names of those who were falsely accused in the book.

“He accused others of killing people,” he said.

At the time of his conviction, the UN Center for Human Rights said the verdict was harsh and called for Tieng Narith to be released and given medical consultations.

Hanrot Raken and Vice Pro­se­cutor Kong Srim could not be reached Wednesday.

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