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Sokha trial put on pause again, final hearings confirmed for December

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Kem Sokha greets his supporters as he leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on October 05. Heng Chivoan

Sokha trial put on pause again, final hearings confirmed for December

Kem Sokha’s treason trial is set to come to an end after 62 hearings at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The court decided at an October 19 hearing to close witness testimony and cross-examinations and adjourn until the final hearings, which will be held in December.

Phnom Penh municipal court spokesman Plang Sophal told The Post on October 19 that the trial chamber had set December 21 as the final hearing date for Sokha’s case aside from the handing down of the verdict.

“Final arguments must be made by all parties before a verdict can be delivered on the charge of conspiracy with foreign power. The court will announce the verdict thereafter,” Sophal said.

Kem Sokha was arrested in early September 2017 at his residence in Tuol Kork district and charged with conspiracy with a foreign power to topple the existing Cambodian government. He was then placed in pre-trial detention in Trapeang Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province for more than a year before being allowed release on bail.

His trial kicked off in January, 2020, but the proceedings have been postponed several times, initially due to the pandemic. Sokha faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

One of Sokha’s defense lawyers Pheng Heng told The Post that few questions were posed by either side at the 62nd hearing.

“Not many questions were posed to him or anyone else so the judges gave both sides two months to submit their concluding arguments,” he said, adding that his client did not commit the crime he had been charged with and that the charge should be dropped.

Muth Chantha, Sokha’s former cabinet chief, said that prosecutors had requested a pause in the proceedings of three months, while the government lawyers requested that everything be put on hold for two months. Sokha’s defense team requested just a two-week pause.

He said Sokha had requested that the court keep any pause in the trial short so that it would end soon because it has already dragged on for five years.

“During an adjournment, Sokha and his lawyers were saying that their conclusion has been prepared the whole time, from hearing one to 62, and they don’t really need much time to prepare their closing statement,” Chantha said.

Key Tech, one of the lawyers for the government who are a party to the proceedings, a role distinct from that of the prosecution, said that the two month pause was a suitable amount of time for each party to prepare their closing statements as the case is complicated and a lot of evidence was heard, so time will be needed for preparation.


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