Terror Case Lawyer Seeks Rights Groups’ Help

The lawyer for three of the suspected Islamic militants charged under Cambodia’s anti-terrorism law has appealed to national and international human rights groups to intervene in the case.

In a letter written Saturday, Kao Soupha cited excessive pretrial detention and procedural irregularities during Friday’s Municipal Court hearing as violations of his clients’ rights.

Human rights groups have been unusually quiet on this high-profile case, in which court officials have admitted that there is little evidence, Kao Soupha said.

The UN Office of the High Com­missioner for Human Rights responded Tuesday with a statement expressing concern over the suspects’ nine month pretrial detention and “the potential for executive interference in light of reported comments by senior government officials about the culpability of the accused men.”

Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and head of the government’s human rights commission, told reporters outside the court on Friday that he was sure the suspects were guilty.

One local human rights official, whose organization belongs to the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said that local groups had not been monitoring the case.

After Friday’s muddled court proceedings, most rights organizations are not sure about the details of the case, especially in regard to what the charges are against the suspects, the official added.

Presiding Judge Ya Sakhon on Friday refused to read out the article under which the men were charged. Then after Kao Soupha had stormed out, he changed the charge against the suspects.

“Maybe now the rights workers will monitor the case,” the official said.

Naly Pilorge of local rights group Licadho said that her organization plans to contact Kao Sou­pha today to see if he needs assistance. She said the case, especially the court room procedure and detention of the suspects, will be brought to the attention of the rights action committee.

But Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said he did not care to act on behalf of suspected terrorists. It was too risky to take up such cases, as the government may paint the organization as a terrorist sympathizer, he said.

Asked if his silence could be partially attributed to US government involvement in the case against the suspected militants, Kem Sokha said, “I don’t want to say about this.”

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights gets funding from the US government through the International Republican Institute.

The US Embassy on Tuesday did not respond to an inquiry as to how its government reconciled supporting the Cambodian authorities’ case against the terror suspects at the expense of the suspects’ legal rights.

for a rights organization

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