Phnom Penh Municipal Court Tuesday opened the trial of seven men accused of bombing two hotels in Phnom Penh but delayed delivering a verdict until later this week, court officials said Wednesday.
One defendant admitted to participating in the July bombing of the Hong Kong and Favour hotels that left three people dead and 11 wounded, said Yet Chakriya, deputy prosecutor for the municipal court. Five other defendants said they were innocent, he said.
One of the accused, Koeut Sinoun, 31, has not been arrested and is being tried in absentia.
The men standing trial are accused of planting bombs at the two hotels July 4 in a bombing that has been characterized as a “terrorist attack” done by a group of extortionists.
The first bomb exploded at the Hong Kong Hotel at 11 am and the second bomb exploded less than one hour later at the Favour Hotel, which is about 50 meters from the Hong Kong Hotel.
Officials said police and the hotels received phone calls from an unidentified man before the bombs detonated, demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Two of the men killed in the bombing—police officer Kim Veng Leang and Kim Hout—were relatives of Thav Kimlong, owner of the Favour Hotel and first deputy governor of Kompong Cham province.
During Tuesday’s trial, Yet Chakriya said defendant Rin Sa Vuth admitted setting one grenade to explode at 11 am at the Hong Kong Hotel and another at the Favour Hotel. He also tried to extort money from the hotels, Yet Chakriya said.
The self-confessed mastermind of the bombing, Rin Sa Vuth, testified Tuesday to being an expert with electronics, Yet Chakriya said.
Ouk Sathya, who is charged with selling illegal weapons used in the bombing, testified Tuesday that he was not involved in the bombing but turned himself into the police after he read in a local newspaper that he was an accomplice, Yet Chakriya said.
Ouk Sathya was originally suspected of being the mastermind behind the attacks after Chreik Mao, another defendant in the case, told police he was the leader, Yet Chakriya said.
On Tuesday, however, Chreik Mao recanted this accusation, Yet Chakriya said.
On Wednesday, Ouk Sathya’s attorney, Dy Bo Re Ma, said his client was innocent. He claimed that police beat Chreik Mao into confessing that Ouk Sathya was the ringleader.
Dy Bo Re Ma also criticized the court for detaining Ouk Sathya for 10 months—four months longer than authorities can legally hold a defendant without trial.
By law, the authorities can detain a defendant for six months without a trial.
“If we think about the law, the offender should be set free,” Dy Be Ro Ma said.
The men standing trial for the bombing include Chreik Mao, Rin Sa Vuth, Ouk Sathya, Panth Bo Reth, Chap Sa Vy, Koeut Sinoun and Preap San Laoy.