Theft Suspect Held 4 Years Without Trial

The Kandal Provincial Court has detained a man without trial for almost four years for his suspected involvement in the theft of a $15 mobile phone in 2005, a defense lawyer and court officers said Monday.

Roeun Moeun, 31, was arrested in Takhmau in October 2005, according to his defense attorney, Diep Kulam of the Legal Aid of Cambodia organization. Three other men arrested for the same alleged crime have since been tried and convicted or released, the lawyer said.

Mr Moeun had as of yesterday been in provisional detention for three years, 10 months and 18 days and has seen many of the court officers involved in his case rotated and reassigned to other courts.

“It is a serious violation of fundamental rights of the accused,” Mr Kulam said. “Why couldn’t he receive justice from the court?”

He said his client had appeared at a trial on Oct 15, 2008, with his three alleged accomplices but that the judge had simply made no mention of him in his ruling.

Judge Leang Sour confirmed yesterday that he had heard the case but without trying one of the men brought before him. Mr Sour said he was unable to release the detainee because he did not appear to be facing any charges.

“In that hearing, I did not find out any charges against him that’s why I could not issue a verdict for him,” Mr Sour said. “I returned his case to the prosecutor for further investigation and I never heard about it again.”

Ly Lorn, former deputy prosecutor at the court who has since been rotated to Svay Rieng Provincial Court, said yesterday that he had forgotten many details of the case but claimed he had requested that an investigating judge charge Mr Moeun with robbery.

The Kandal court’s current director In Vanvibol said yesterday that he had assigned the case to Judge In Sothea for investigation. How­ever Mr Sothea denied any involvement in the case when contacted by telephone.

Kandal Provincial Court Pros­ecutor Uk Kimseth claimed yesterday that Mr Moeun had been held in extended pretrial detention as, after his arrest for the mobile phone, he had been charged with other crimes, but Mr Kimseth said he could not remember what they were.

Mr Kulam, the detained man’s lawyer, said he had not seen any record of new charges against his client and doubted that this was the case. The sole charge in the case had been issued by former court deputy director, Kong Kuoy.

Mrs Kuoy, who could not be reached, now works at the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court, which earlier this month released another long-term detainee 29-year-old drug smuggler Roeun Sophea. Of her 38-month prison sentence, Ms Sophea had already served 37 months and 26 days in pre-trial detention, making her eligible for release five days after her conviction.

The government’s Human Rights Committee last month launched a nationwide review of the number of detainees awaiting trial in Cam­bodia’s 25 prisons while the Justice Ministry in June sought similar statistics from prosecutors, but has refused to disclose them.

The government has however come late to the question of excessive pre-trial detention, which has nearly always been a feature of the country’s post-war justice system.

According to the newly adopted code of penal procedures, which was enacted in 2007, Cambodia’s courts shall detain suspects in prison ahead of trial only if deemed necessary.

In the case of a misdemeanor, such as the theft of a mobile phone, provisional detention may only be ordered where the possible jail sentence exceeds one year. The detention also may not be longer than four months, but with the possibility of extension by a further two months if an investigating judges states specific reasons for ordering it.


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