Woman Held Three Years With No Trial Because of Lost File

A woman held on drug smuggling charges has been detained in Banteay Meanchey provincial prison for more than three years without trial, and her lawyer has lodged a complaint with the court accusing it of violating her fundamental rights, the lawyer and court officials said Tuesday.

Roeun Sophea, 29, was arrested in her Poipet home in June 2006, her attorney, Sokun Pidor of NGO Legal Aid of Cambodia, said Tuesday, adding that he believes the extended detention is due to court officials losing her case file. The complaint he has filed also requests a bond hearing.

“The court officers are pointing to each other over the lost case file,” said Mr Pidor. “I asked the court to immediately release her because there is no case file and the continuous detention is seriously violating her rights.”

Ms Sophea’s detention exceeds the limit set by law by at least double. Article 208 of the 2007 criminal procedure code allows the court to detain a suspected criminal up to 18 months in pretrial detention. But Banteay Meanchey court has detained Mrs Sophea for 37 months without any hearing, Mr Pidor said.

On July 16, the lawyer said, he contacted court director Ang Mealatey who told him that the court could not find the case file, which was compiled by former Banteay Meanchey judge, and current Pursat chief prosecutor, Top Chansereyvuth.

Kong Kuoy, deputy director of the Banteay Meanchey court, said Mr Pidor met her on Tuesday afternoon asking for access to the case file, but the court could not find it. She blamed court clerk Uk Sovann for failing to bring the case to a hearing.

Judge Kuoy said by telephone that she had heard that a court official has actually found the case file, though she has not yet seen it. She said the court was planning to schedule a hearing, but that she did not know when it would happen.

“The clerk had kept the case under other files, and he forgot it because there have been so many cases,” Judge Kuoy said, refusing to talk about any possible disciplinary measures against her clerk.

Mr Chansereyvuth, Judge Mealatey and the clerk Mr Sovann could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

According to a June report by human rights group Licadho, there are at least 11 people being detained for longer than 18 months without convictions in Banteay Meanchey prison.





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