Sokha treason case to go to trial after probe concludes

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The investigation into the charge of treason against Kem Sokha, the former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, has concluded, with the case sent for trial. Heng Chivoan

The investigation into the charge of treason against Kem Sokha, the former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, has concluded, with the case sent for trial.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court is yet to announce a date for the hearing.

“An investigating judge has concluded that there is sufficient evidence to convict Kem Sokha of ‘conspiracy with a foreign power’. The investigating judge has closed the investigation,” a Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson said in a press release issued on Monday.

It said Sokha’s case had been further sent to trial on Monday after the investigating judge had completed the probe.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court president Taing Sunlay told The Post that the trial chamber had yet to set a date for the proceedings.

Sokha was arrested in September 2017 and charged under Article 443 of the Criminal Code with “conspiracy with a foreign power”. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if found guilty.

The charge came after Sokha claimed to have received US assistance in planning his political career.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month reduced Sokha’s court-supervised bail conditions following his release on bail after spending a year in the Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province. He originally had to remain at his house in the capital’s Tuol Kork district.

The reduced conditions allow him to travel anywhere within the country.

Meng Sopheary, one of Sokha’s team of four lawyers, said she had received information on the case being sent for trial. But she was unaware of a date for the hearing as the court had yet to issue a summons.

She said that because her client was on bail, the time until a trial date is set was not dictated by legal procedure.

“If the charged person is in detention, a trial date is to be set soon so that he is not detained more than procedure allows. But if the person is not being detained, the duration is not limited specifically.

“If there is a trial soon and our client is acquitted, this is good. But if it were to result in punishment, we would not want such a trial,” Sopheary said.

Chan Chen, another of Sokha’s legal team, said as per procedure, lawyers had to be informed 15 days before a trial to ensure that they had sufficient time to prepare their case.

“We will meet with the co-lawyers and the client soon to discuss the case,” he said.

Analysts claimed the latest developments in Sokha’s case could be due to the situation regarding a possible withdrawal of the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement.

“Sokha will be tried by the courts and could then be freed with a royal pardon. After his release, there will be political movement in Cambodia and overseas by Sokha followers.

“[Those banned by the Supreme Court] will try to find a way to come back into politics,” Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said.

Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, agreed that Sokha could be released after being tried by the courts.

“They are all looking at each other in regards to this case, even though it is being dealt with by the courts. If the EBA is withdrawn, the situation could develop accordingly because it would be a kind of swap. We call this a swap in politics,” Touch said.