Sokha defence: Treason trial 'political' in nature

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Kem Sokha leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court after attending a hearing in January. Hong Menea

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has resumed with the 44th hearing in the case of former opposition leader Kem Sokha, who was charged with conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow the government.

During the hearing, Sokha, former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said the agreement between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and then-CNRP has laid to rest all of the political issues that occurred during the election aside from the formation of a new National Election Committee (NEC), so there is nothing to accuse him of anymore.

Pheng Heng, Sokha's co-defence lawyer, told The Post by telephone after the June 15 hearing that Sokha had raised the matter of the agreement to show that everything was over in terms of political conflicts after the CPP acknowledged irregularities in the 2013 election on July 22, 2014, at the Senate.

However, according to Heng, the prosecutor said the agreement had no relevance to the trial because it was a political agreement.

Heng said he raised the example by way of explanation at the hearing about the Paris Peace Agreements, the contents of which Cambodia eventually enshrined into law.

"Well, no matter the agreement, the politician can end conflicts through political solutions. This is also a political issue and politics are also involved," Heng said.

Citing Sokha, Heng said the political agreement was important and the law was also important. Sokha, he added, valued politics and institutions so he still saw the way out as being political in nature, with politicians having reconciled and debated and then ending this disagreement and misunderstanding.

Chan Chen, another of Sokha’s lawyers, also said during the hearing that the charge against his client was politically motivated because the allegations were not well-documented and did not meet the legal standards for charging him.

"Half the people in the Kingdom know it is a political issue," Chen said.

Municipal court spokesman and representative for the trial chamber Plang Sophal told The Post on June 15 that he would not provide any further comments on the hearing.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin told The Post on June 15 that Sokha's case was based on existing laws and procedures, while negotiations to end political issues were another matter entirely.

"Regarding the legal issues, he has to face them and be convicted or acquitted according to the law and the court’s procedures and other regulations in force. The principle of the rule of law requires it," Malin said.

The trial will resume on June 22 with its 45th hearing.