Monday, 28 March 2011 15:03 Thomas Miller and Meas Sokchea
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said yesterday he will not ask his lawyer to defend him against charges of defamation and disinformation brought by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong, in a case stemming from a 2008 complaint that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced last week it would hear on April 5.
Sam Rainsy, president of the eponymous political party, said yesterday he would not ask his lawyer to attend the trial “because it’s the same case with the same foregone conclusion”.
“As a matter of legal and judicial principle, nobody can be condemned twice for the same offence,” Sam Rainsy, who currently lives in self-exile in Paris, said by email.
The Municipal Court issued a summons on March 23 ordering Sam Rainsy to appear in court to face charges brought under Articles 62 and 63 of the UNTAC code.
In 2008, Hor Namhong filed a defamation lawsuit in France over a passage of Sam Rainsy’s autobiography, Rooted in Stone, which alleged that Hor Namhong headed the Boeung Trabek prison during the Khmer Rouge reign.
Sam Rainsy was fined and last year lost his appeal.
The Foreign Minister also filed suit in Cambodian courts in 2008 over a speech by Sam Rainsy that year delivered at the Choeung Ek “killing fields”, which referenced an alleged relationship between Hor Namhong and the Khmer Rouge leadership.
Deputy court prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot declined to comment yesterday and referred questions to Judge Seng Neang, who could not be reached.
Kar Savuth, Hor Namhong’s lawyer, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The latest case against the embattled opposition leader complicates his appeal for a political settlement that would allow him to return to the Kingdom ahead of upcoming elections in 2012 and 2013.
Sam Rainsy faces a pair of jail terms totalling 12 years, handed down last year in connection with a protest he staged at the Vietnamese border in 2009. He was stripped of his parliamentary seat this month as a result of the convictions.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said yesterday the charges were “mainly to pile up more pressure on Sam Rainsy not to return”, but not necessarily an indication that the government has ruled out a deal.
Sam Rainsy said “inevitable” political change in Cambodia would bring about a resolution.
“A political solution depends on the political situation. There will inevitably be an evolution in the political situation in Cambodia as shown and announced by recent and ongoing developments worldwide (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, etc),” Sam Rainsy said.