Their Time Is Served, But 7 Convicts Still Jailed

Although they completed their three-year prison sentences more than a year ago, seven prisoners convicted of involvement with the Cambodian Freedom Fighters remain behind bars, waiting for their cases to be heard at the Ap­peals Court, a rights worker said.

The prisoners, who were convicted and handed a retroactive sentence in June 2001 in connection with the November 2000 attack on government buildings in Phnom Penh, should have been released in November 2003, said Ham Sunrith, acting coordinator of monitoring for the rights group Licadho. They were arrested in December 2000.

But Roth Sean, 55, Sok Seang Ly, 34, Chey Vandy, 39, Tes Sarin, 35, Vieng Chhim, 46, Dek Kimsan, 35, and Ly Chhun Huong, 48, re­main in detention at Prey Sar pris­on, Ham Sunrith said Thursday.

“The Appeals Court should hold the trial soon because the prisoners were over-detained one year already,” Ham Sunrith said. He added that the seven should be immediately released if a court hearing is not held promptly.

Last year, the seven men dropped an appeal against their conviction, which they lodged shortly after they were sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Though they maintained innocence, they were advised to drop the appeal in order not to prolong their imprisonment.

But a simultaneous appeal by Deputy Prosecutor Ngeth Sarath, seeking a longer prison term for the seven men, still stands.

Ngeth Sarath said Thursday he did not know why the Appeals Court has not ruled on the case.

Tuot Lux, secretary of state to the Ministry of Justice, said the delay was in part due to a lack of judges.

But, he said, “It is legal to continue the detention.”

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