Journalists’ verdict upheld

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
RFA reporters Uon Chhin(left) and Yeang Sothearin at the Supreme Court. Hean Rangsey

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the verdict of the Appeal Court to re-investigate the alleged crimes of former Radio Free Asia (RFA) reporters Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin.

Both were charged with espionage and producing pornographic content but in 2019, a municipal court judge ruled there was not enough evidence to convict them.

Instead of throwing out the case, the judge called for a re-investigation. The former reporters filed an appeal to stop the re-investigation.

Concerning the Supreme Court’s decision, Sam Chamroeurn, the lawyer for the two accused, told The Post that the ruling was unfair to his clients.

“I find that law enforcement remains limited. It doesn’t serve the purpose of the law,” he said.

In a separate case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday also upheld the prison sentence of Kong Mas, a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) member who was charged with insulting the government and inciting criminal activity in Phnom Penh last year

Court documents said the then 32-year-old Mas created five Facebook accounts and used them to post offensive messages about government leaders from April to October 2018. He was found guilty last year under Articles 495 and 502 of the Criminal Code.

In the social media posts, he also urged citizens to abstain from voting if the CNRP was left off the ballot.

He was sentenced to one year and six months in prison and was due to be released on July 19, but a separate court case he is involved in will keep him in jail until at least August 3.

Judge You Yuthara on Wednesday read the verdict in the absence of Mas and his defence lawyer.

Citing the prosecutor, Judge Yuthara said Mas wrote a message conceding he had written the social media posts which landed him in prison.

Mas’ defence lawyer Sam Sokong told The Post on Wednesday that the Supreme Court’s ruling was unjust.

“The Supreme Court is the highest court and its decision final, so we have nothing to protest,” he said.

Kol Sat, Mas’ wife, told The Post on Wednesday that police detained her husband in Phnom Penh at around 9:30am on January 16, last year.

On July 19, this year, her husband was due to leave prison. But the Svay Rieng Provincial Court ordered the director of the Prey Sar prison to keep Mas detained for an additional 15 days until August 3, because of another lawsuit filed by the Romeas Hek district governor.

Sat said her husband was arrested for criticising the district governor, who subsequently filed a complaint.

The Svay Rieng court imprisoned Mas for 15 days for “defamation and incitement of citizens to hate public officials” and made him pay a fine of 5,000,000 riel ($1,219).