The six men arrested on suspicion of plotting to bomb Novem-ber’s Water Festival have alleged that their confessions to police were extracted under torture, their lawyer said Wednesday.
Interior Ministry officials dismissed the claims, saying the suspects freely confessed to taking part in the bomb plot, full details of which have never been explained to the public.
Teang Vuthea, an attorney with the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that at a meeting at Prey Sar prison on Tuesday his clients told him police had beaten them following their arrests.
Beginning Oct 29, police in Svay Rieng, Siem Reap and Prey Veng provinces carried out a series of arrests, detaining Saing Bunly, 45, Neang Sok, 38, Pov Sam An, 46, and Chan Rithy, 47.
The beatings allegedly occurred under police interrogation before the six were charged Oct 31, Teang Vuthea said.
“There was punching, kicking, slapping and pushing heads against a table,” he said, adding that the violence was used make them confess.
The men later recanted their confessions during questioning in court Nov 23, he said, adding that he had no idea why police wanted to falsely implicate the six.
“These people are not politicians, they are farmers. They are not ca-pable of making or inventing [ex-plosives],” he said.
Bith Kimhong, head of the Interior Ministry’s antiterrorism department, denied the suspects were tortured.
“It’s not true,” he said. “The answers to police were given freely.”
The Phnom Penh Office of the UN High Commissioner for Hu-man Rights said Wednesday that it was concerned by the torture claims.
“Our office is concerned about reports it has received that [the six] were mistreated and threatened when they were initially arrested,” the office said in a statement.
“It will be important for the government to produce concrete evidence to substantiate these charg-es [against the men],” the UN added.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said suspects sometimes pretend they were tortured. He added that undercover agents followed the six and evidence was collected including phone records and statements given under interrogation.
The group did not have explosives but wanted to detonate explosions in order to prompt the firing of National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy and Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, he said.