Lawyer wants ex-CNRP members at trial

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Sam Sokong, the defence lawyer for former members and activists of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). Heng Chivoan

The defence lawyer for former members and activists of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on January 12 sent a letter to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court seeking intervention that would allow them to participate in trials scheduled for this month and March.

Sam Sokong said some of his clients are living abroad but willing to return for their trials.

“In the letter, I requested to have my clients present at the hearing because criminal procedure states that the right of the accused to be present for such hearings must be upheld. This allows them to hear the accusations against them in order to defend themselves.

“We submitted the request urging the court to intervene with the authorities through the enforcement of court summons or by any other means that would make it possible for my clients to be present at the hearing,” Sokong said.

Municipal court spokesman Y Rin confirmed that the court had received the letter but so far no decision has been made.

On January 14, the court will resume hearings for over 60 of the 139 CNRP members and activists on charges of treason, insurrection, and incitement.

The second group of remaining defendants will have a separate hearing scheduled for March 4.

Former CNRP vice-president Mu Sochua said she planned to return to the Kingdom on January 17 following her failed attempt to return on January 4. She claimed she was unable to get a visa from the Cambodian embassy in the US where she is living in exile.

Sochua could not be reached for comment on January 12, but in a recent tweet she said a trial could not be considered fair unless the defendants were allowed to attend.

“They won’t issue us visas to return to face the courts and they arrest our supporters prior to our return [because] they have no evidence of treason or of insurrection,” she wrote.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said the court was following the procedure as stated in the law, from the investigation on up through the trial.

He said the cases against some former CNRP members are currently at the trial stage and the court has issued summons and arrest warrants in order for the authorities to bring the accused to stand trial.

“All diplomats are obliged to enforce the court’s arrest warrants rather than issuing visas or validating passports [for fugitives]. Instead, they need to enforce the arrest warrants by all diplomatic means and existing legal mechanisms.

“But whether they are arrested or not, the court will go ahead with proceedings,” Malin said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the court can issue a summons letter but finding a way to enter the country is the responsibility of the individual.

He said the government will not intervene in this matter because by law, it is not possible to issue any legal travel documents to fugitive criminals.