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Muslim leader ruled guilty of defamation

People wander through the grounds of a Phnom Penh mosque in May that is at the centre of a land dispute and defamation case.
People wander through the grounds of a Phnom Penh mosque in May that is at the centre of a land dispute and defamation case. Heng Chivoan

Muslim leader ruled guilty of defamation

Muslim community leader Ahmad Yahya was yesterday found guilty at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of defaming fellow community leader Othsman Hassan in a case about a road proposed to run past a city-centre mosque.

The court ordered Yahya to pay 100 million riel compensation (about $24,000). Hassan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, had sought $1 million. Yahya, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, was also ordered to pay a fine of 5 million riel ($1,200) to the state.

Hassan launched the defamation case after claiming that Yahya had told a Muslim radio station and Thmey Thmey, a local media outlet, on April 28 that Hassan had tried to get approval to build the road on land belonging to the mosque at Boeung Kak. The proposed road has created tension among the Muslim community over concerns that it would disrupt prayer sessions.

Yahya said he was “very disappointed” with the court’s decision, adding that he planned to appeal and that he would have legal representation – something he lacked this time around.

“I don’t understand,” he said. “We have enough evidence.”

After the ruling, Yahya took to Facebook to reiterate his claim that Hassan was behind the proposed road.

One of Hassan’s attorneys, Koy Kunthy, said that although the compensation fell short of his client’s expectations, his client was satisfied he had won.

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