Tuesday, 08 February 2011 15:02 Sebastian Strangio
The Appeal Court yesterday heard the case of four men convicted of the 1996 murder of British deminer Chris Howes, according to officials from the Mines Advisory Group, the man’s former employer.
In March 1996, Howes and his Cambodian counterpart Houn Hourth were abducted by Khmer Rouge cadres and killed shortly afterwards.
More than a decade later, in October 2008, Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted four former Khmer Rouge – including Royal Cambodian Armed Forces brigadier general Kham Mum – of kidnapping and murder in connection with the case.
Three were convicted and handed 20-year jail terms for their role in the killing, while the fourth received 10 years.
Only two of the accused were present in court yesterday, according to a summary of the proceedings compiled by MAG staff. During the hearing, lawyers for the accused argued that their clients should have their sentences reduced or overturned because they did not mastermind the killing and faced death themselves if they did not obey orders.
Lawyers also claimed, the summary states, that their actions were covered by a pardon granted to KR defectors.
During the hearing, lawyers for the Howes family read out a translated statement from Howes’ sister Patricia Phillips, which called for the earlier verdicts to be upheld.
“We have never sought revenge, but simply justice for these two fine and brave men, brutally murdered whilst carrying out life saving work,” read the statement, a copy of which was obtained yesterday.
According to MAG’s summary of the proceedings, lawyers representing Houn Hourth’s family also requested US$50,000 compensation from the four accused.
In a statement yesterday, MAG’s Chief Executive Lou McGrath said the family would continue to receive support during the proceedings.
“Chris’ family has shown true honour in waiting diligently to achieve justice for his murder. I have the utmost respect for them and for Houn Hourth’s family too, and will continue to support them through this process,” he said.
Judge Um Sarith, who is in charge of the case, could not be reached yesterday.
A MAG representative said a verdict is scheduled to be handed down February 24.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA AND SAM RITH