The Free Trade Union has called on the Appeal Court to convene the long overdue appeal hearing of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the two men serving 20-year sentences for the slaying of FTU President Chea Vichea in 2004.
FTU Deputy President Sam Srey Mom said in a letter to Appeal Court Director Ly Vouchleng that her union and Chea Vichea’s family have “waited too long” for the court to do its work and free the convicted men—whom many believe were framed for the union leader’s killing.
In October, the court failed to hold the much anticipated appeal hearing of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun when one of three judges, Samreth Sophal, failed to appear in court, claiming he had a nasty bout of diarrhea.
The two were found guilty by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in August 2005, but almost one-and -a-half years later, the appeal against their conviction has not been heard.
“The Appeal Court has waited too long,” Sam Srey Mom wrote.
“The Appeal Court must offer justice for Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun so that they may have their freedom,” she said.
Sam Srey Mom also noted in the letter that the eye witness to Chea Vichea’s assassination, Var Sothy, has publicly stated that the killer was neither Born Samnang nor Sok Sam Oeun, and former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who arrested the two men, also has said they were not guilty.
Heng Pov and several of his closest police officials have since been jailed for killing a judge and several other planned assassinations of high-profile people.
FTU President Chea Mony said on Friday that the government must not hide the real killers of his brother and delaying the appeal hearing proved the political nature of his brother’s death.
“There is a political motive for the court delaying the hearing,” he said.
Contacted Friday, Ly Vouchleng said that, as president of the court, she had no authority to schedule the hearing.
“The judges have the right…to schedule hearings. I cannot do that,” she said.
Samreth Sophal, whose case of diarrhea torpedoed the October appeal hearing, said Friday that he was no longer a judge in the case. Judge Saly Theara, who was the presiding judge at the postponed October hearing, could not be reached for comment.
Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said a legal loophole exists whereby no time limit is defined for appeal hearings. However, he called on the judges to hear the case soon.
“If the court doesn’t have enough evidence, they should be released,” he said.