Mar 2, 2011
Phnom Penh - Cambodian human rights groups welcomed the Supreme Court's order on Wednesday to release a man imprisoned for the 2004 murder of a prominent trade unionist.
Thach Saveth was sentenced in 2005 to 15 years for the killing of garment union factory head Ros Sovannareth. He had always protested his innocence.
The Supreme Court said Wednesday that the lower court must re-examine the conviction and ordered Thach Saveth's provisional release.
However, by late Wednesday, his paperwork had not been processed and he remained in prison.
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights said there had never been any credible evidence linking Thach Saveth to the crime.
Its president, Ou Virak, blamed 'at best' incompetence in the judiciary for the original verdict and at worst manipulation for political ends.
At his Supreme Court hearing last month, Thach Saveth said he had been visiting relatives on the other side of the country when the killing occurred.
'They charged me wrongly,' the Phnom Penh Post newspaper reported him as telling the court on February 9. 'I request the court to find justice for me because I did not commit the crime.'
Ros Sovannareth was a factory representative for the Free Trade Union of Workers in the Kingdom of Cambodia, which has long been aligned with the political opposition. He was shot dead in Phnom Penh months after the union's national head, Chea Vichea, was shot and killed at a newspaper stand in the capital.
The two men convicted of Chea Vichea's murder were released in 2009 pending a new investigation after five years in prison.
The judiciary has long been criticized as being a pawn for the ruling party.
The UN human rights envoy, Surya Subedi, said in June that some judges were not interested in upholding the law and noted the courts faced 'tremendous challenges in delivering justice for the people of the country, especially the poor and marginalized.'