Trial Date Set for Suspected Islamic Militants

The trial of four suspected members of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah is scheduled for Feb 2. However, a Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge said Tuesday there is insufficient evidence to support the charges against the suspects.

Judge Ham Meng Se, who will preside over what will be Cam­bodia’s first trial of suspected Islamic militants, said he has written to the National Police and the US Em­bassy demanding more evidence.

“I have not received any new evidence yet. I wrote letters to the US Embassy and the director general of National Police last week demanding more evidence,” Ham Meng Se said  Tues­day.

Ham Meng Se said that testimony at the trial may reveal more about the charges, but “it is very hard to say what the decision will be.”

Ham Meng Se said last week he could not set a trial date until the police presented more evidence to support the terrorism allegations against the four.

In late May 2003, police closed two Islamic schools and charged Thai Muslims Abdul Azi Haji Chiming, 35, Muhammad Yala­ludin Mading, 41, and Egyptian Esam Mohammed Khidr Ali, 40, with terrorist acts linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah group, which has been blamed for the 2002 bombing on the Indonesian is­land Bali and the bombing of a Jakarta hotel in August 2003.

Cambodian ethnic Cham Sman Esma El was arrested the following month on similar charges. Sman Esma El returned to Cam­bodia in April after studying at Islamic religious schools in southern Thai­land for three years.

Cambodian officials said the arrests followed information provided by the US government.

Kao Sopha, the lawyer for the Thai and Egyptian suspects, said Tuesday he expects his clients to be released.

“All is the same. There is no new evidence,” Kao Sopha said. “It is good to defend clients when the court has no evidence.”


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