Two men sentenced to one year in prison for their role in the 2014 kidnapping and murder of a man found dead in Kompong Speu province will instead spend up to 15 years in prison after the Appeal Court drastically revised the charges against them.
Initially handed one-year sentences for illegal weapons possession and failure to report a crime to authorities, In Raksmey and Seng Sok were convicted of being accomplices to a premeditated murder, a crime that carries a 15-year sentence.
During their trial at the Kandal Provincial Court, a third defendant, Seng Chanthy, was handed a life sentence for the premeditated murder of Heng Piseth, the son of successful bakery store owners in Kandal province.
Heng Piseth’s body was found bound and gagged in a flooded quarry in Kompong Speu in July 2014, a week after he went missing. His parents paid $100,000 to his kidnappers—who had initially demanded $500,000—on the same day he disappeared.
The provincial court’s initial decision to give Mr. Raksmey and Mr. Sok such light sentences for their role in the murder bewildered the police who investigated the case as well as the prosecutor, who appealed the decision.
Appeal Court Presiding Judge Chay Chandaravan said that he had decided the provincial court had erred.
“We think that the judge at Kandal Provincial Court that charged Seng Sok and In Raksmey…was not correct,” he said, announcing the harsher sentencing and ordering the three defendants to pay $300,000 to the victim’s family.
Nach Try, a lawyer for Mr. Sok, said outside the courtroom that he would talk to his client about the possibility of appealing the decision to the Supreme Court.
“It is an injustice because there is not any inculpating evidence against my client,” he said.
Sok Sam Oeun, a lawyer for Mr. Chanthy, said his client was innocent and noted that a fourth man, Voet Sotheara—who police have described as the “mastermind” of the murder—was still at large.
“There is no evidence clearly linking Chanthy [to the crime],” he said.