Saturday, 19 February 2011

Cambodia terror trial sentences criticised

via CAAI

By Alma Mistry for Radio Australia

Posted 9 hours 55 minutes ago

Cambodia's justice system is being criticised after three foreign nationals were sentenced to eight years in jail under anti-terrorism laws.

Last year, Cambodian police arrested three men who allegedly sent a letter to the Australian, British and American embassies in Phnom Penh, threatening a terrorist attack.

Further investigation indicates the letter warned the embassies about four refugees from India and Burma, accusing them of links to Al Qaeda, and said they were planning an attack on the embassies.

Six signatures - with first names only - ended the letter.

Last April, police arrested and charged three of the supposed letter writers under anti-terrorism laws.

They are two Bangladeshi nationals and a Nepalese man. All worked in the capital's small but busy South Asian restaurant scene.

Experts say the case against the three relied only on the letter and no firm evidence linking the men to any crimes was produced.

The men say they will appeal against the sentence, which has been questioned by the Bangladeshi embassy and experts who say it is inconsistent with universal principles of justice.

Journalist Adam Miller covered the story for the English-language daily Phnom Penh Post.

"A personal dispute in the South Asian restaurant scene... seems to have led to this letter being written, but there's no evidence linking them to anything," he told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program.

Mr Miller said one man denied writing the letter.

But police said a handwriting analysis matched two men's signatures to the letter and the name of the third was found on one of the other's mobile phones.

Judge Sin Visal, in his judgement on Thursday, said the letter was strong evidence.

"He basically said that the letter alone was enough to prove that these guys had ties to terrorists and that they were convicted purely on that basis," Mr Miller said.

Opposition MP and member for Phnom Penh, Son Chhay, says he was shocked by the verdict. He says the case is a disturbing example of justice in Cambodia.

"We do not trust our courts. We believe in many cases the court hardly investigates the case," he said.

"Usually they just get evidence from the police and then based on that they will give a verdict.

"Many cases are based on corruption and also the influence of the government."

A Cambodian government spokesman said he was unaware of the case and declined to comment.

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