Two men alleged to have been ringleaders of the so-called “Khmer Empire Movement,” a group that supposedly aimed to raise an armed force in order to attack Thailand and Vietnam, have been convicted and sent to prison, a court official said Wednesday.
Two other men accused of being involved in the movement were acquitted, Pursat Provincial Court Prosecutor Tob Chan Sereivuth said by telephone.
Thab The and Chan Veasna were sentenced to six and five years, respectively, for having tried to raise the illegal movement, which ultimately aimed to topple the Cambodian government, Tob Chan Sereivuth said.
The court also found that Ny Kosal and Tol Mann had been framed and did not take part in the attempted recruitment of rebels.
“These two were the victims in this case,” Tob Chan Sereivuth said.
Ouk Vandeth, a lawyer for the two convicted men, said his clients would appeal their sentences.
“The court’s decision is not correct. There is no evidence of the crime, or that these activities took place,” he said, referring to the fact that the so-called movement neither carried out an attack, nor had any weapons.
Ouk Vandeth added the court had made the convictions based on a piece of a paper on which the two had signed their names.
“They are only names,” he said.
Ouk Vandeth said his client, Thab The, claimed he had been working as an undercover agent for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation investigating possible al-Qaida activity in Cambodia.
The US Embassy in Phnom Penh has denied Thab The’s claims of having worked for the FBI.
Tob Chan Sereivuth said he would launch an investigation into a new suspect, who he named as Chan Muth Tharak.
Naly Pilorge, director of local rights group Licadho, said there had been no probable cause for the arrests of the Ny Kosal and Tol Mann, who were represented in court by Licadho lawyers. The lawyers said they were pleased with the court’s verdict.
However, Adhoc provincial monitor Houng Sophea said he was still suspicious about the case.
“We feel it might have been constructed to take the blame away from someone else,” he said, adding that Thab The had told the court that Chan Muth Tharak had hired him to put his plan into action for a fee of $10,000.