Kem Sokha’s treason trial to continue next week

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Kem Sokha waves to supporters as he arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his treason trial. Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court said on Thursday that Kem Sokha’s treason trial, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday next week, will still centre on his alleged conspiracy with foreign powers to topple the government and his activities before and after the 2013 national elections until his arrest.

The trial for the former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) entered its fourth week on Thursday.

“Next week, we will hold a hearing to question what evidence is there to confirm Kem Sokha’s confidential collusion with foreign countries, and where it took place,” presiding Judge Koy Sao said before the end on Thursday’s hearing.

At the start of the trial, Judge Sao was presented with nearly 20 video clips purportedly showing Sokha’s past activities and statements.

Some of the videos showed human rights-related statements made by Sokha when he was then president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR).

Others showed him delivering political messages during the party congress and meetings with supporters while he was president of the Human Rights Party (HRP).

There were also videos also showed his activities while he was CNRP vice-president, such as when he delivered political messages to supporters.

Some showed him accompanying former CNRP president Sam Rainsy in negotiation with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, and Senate President Say Chhum.

One of the videos showed Sokha leading a march to disseminate information on human rights to people while he was the CCHR president, while others showed him delivering political messages concerning his stance over the merging of the HRP with Rainsy’s party to establish the CNRP.

In his political messages, Sokha is heard saying an opponent should not be considered an enemy. He said one can win an election without having to persecute the loser. This, he said, could lead the Kingdom to peace and prosperity.

He also said the CNRP is not an armed party and had no intention of staging a colour revolution or a coup.

Sao said the screening of the videos was meant to allow Sokha’s defence team and the government lawyers to verify the video contents and transcripts.

He said the videos and transcripts are exculpatory evidence that the defence team had filed to the court.

Sokha’s defence team confirmed that some parts of the clips were cut from videos that the court had used as evidence to accuse him of treason.

After a 10-minute break following the video screening, Judge Sao allowed the defence and government lawyers to take note of the additional 16 photographs that the defence team had submitted to the court on Tuesday.

The photographs included those showing Sokha meeting with the president of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Cambodia, while others showed National Assembly president Heng Samrin meeting with the same NDI president.

After viewing the photographs, the prosecution and government lawyers requested Judge Sao to consider not admitting such evidence which they said was not valid because the photos contained no details as to when they were taken and what the meetings were about.

One of Sokha’s lawyers, Meng Sotheary, confirmed that the evidence the defence had initially presented had no details, but he said they were meant to prove there was nothing unusual concerning his client’s meeting with foreigners.

The presiding judge decided to accept the photos as evidence but told Sokha’s lawyers to provide details as to when and where the photos were taken and what the meetings were about during the following hearings.

This week’s hearing did not proceed without tension, with both the defence and government lawyers complained of not obtaining equal rights during the trial.

Government lawyer Ky Tech also requested Judge Sao to review the use of Sokha’s rights, which he said should not be more privileged than other accused.

Tech made the request after Sokha was allowed to stand or sit while in the dock.

The defence team said Sokha could not stand for too long due to health conditions.