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Judge rejects activists’ appeal in Sokha 'mistress' case

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Adhoc’s Ny Sokha (centre left) and Yi Soksan (centre right) are escorted through the ground of the Phnom Penh Appeal Court yesterday afternoon ahead of their hearing. Heng Chivoan

Judge rejects activists’ appeal in Sokha 'mistress' case

Four employees from rights group Adhoc and an election official charged in connection with opposition leader Kem Sokha’s alleged sexual affair are set to languish longer behind bars after the Appeal Court yesterday threw out an appeal of their prolonged pre-trial detention.

The group, arrested in May for allegedly bribing Sokha’s purported mistress to stay quiet about the alleged affair, had appealed a decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to extend their pre-trial detention beyond the six-month limit stipulated under Cambodian law for a felony offence.

Speaking after yesterday’s three-hour afternoon hearing, attorney for the jailed Adhoc staffers Ky Sophal said the Appeal Court had upheld the municipal court’s decision. “The court said that the delay of detention is right because . . . the investigation of this case had not ended yet and it is a [felony] crime, so they can ask for the delay for the detention,” she said.

According to Cambodia’s Criminal Procedure Code, an investigating judge can request an additional six-month term of pre-trial imprisonment twice, provided they have a “well-reasoned” argument.

The group has been charged with bribing a witness, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

The charge concerns $204 Adhoc gave hairdresser Khom Chandaraty for travel and food costs when she was seeking the group’s help after being named as Sokha’s mistress following the release of covertly recorded phone conversations, the provenance of which has never been investigated.

The case is one of several connected to Sokha’s alleged affair. The associated investigation and prosecutions are widely seen as politically motivated attacks against government opponents.

The opposition leader himself has been sentenced to five months in prison for refusing to appear for questioning over the case. While technically free on appeal, he has remained largely holed up in CNRP headquarters since a May arrest attempt.

Speaking yesterday, imprisoned Adhoc staffer Lem Mony called their prolonged detention “very unfair”.

Her colleague Nay Vanda, meanwhile, focused his attention on recent threats by the government to kick the UN’s Office for the High Commission of Human Rights out of the country, calling for the organisation’s mandate to continue.

“If there is no UN, the human rights violations will be more serious,” he said.

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