The Phnom Penh Municipal Court detained a Nepalese man and a Bangladeshi man on terrorism-related charges after they allegedly sent threatening letters to the Australian, British and US embassies on the behalf of terrorist group al-Qaida, officials said yesterday.
DP Paudyal, 44, and Rafigul Islam, 42, were arrested earlier this month, said deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun, adding that it was unclear how many people were behind the three threatening letters entitled “Four terrorists of Asian al-Qaida in Phnom Penh.”
The alleged letters warned the embassies to be careful saying that there were al-Qaida terrorists in Phnom Penh who would somehow damage the embassies, Mr Roeun claimed. The letters all contained six signatures he added, saying that police believed the names to be fake.
The suspects are charged under article 29 and 33 of the anti-terrorism law, he said. If convicted of terrorism, the pair would be sentenced to five to 10 years in prison.
National police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said it is not known what connection, if any, these men allegedly have to al-Qaida and declined to comment as to how seriously police are taking the threats. He said police began investigating the letters one month ago and arrested the two men within the last few days, but he declined to say when.
“They threatened to damage the three embassies of Australian, Britain, and America,” he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak declined to provide details on the case.
“Normally, if there’s no evidence police cannot arrest them,” he said. “You don’t need to know about this case, keep it for the police and the court to investigate.”
US Embassy spokesman John Johnson declined to comment on the arrests, saying “it is an ongoing investigation.”
“From time to time, US Embassies worldwide receive threats. In these situations the Embassy works directly with the host government authorities to ascertain the nature of the threat and to ensure the protection afforded under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”
Officials with the British and Australian embassies declined to comment.