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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cambodian police chief cleared in kidnapping

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian court Wednesday acquitted disgraced former police chief Heng Pov on a charge of kidnapping four South Korean businessmen. Phnom Penh Municipal Court took just a few hours to throw out the charge against the former chief of the capital's police, who is already serving 18 years in prison for the murder of former senior judge Sok Sethamony in April 2003.

Pov, 47, was sentenced for that murder in absentia in September and jailed on his return to Cambodia after being deported from Malaysia last December. Police had alleged that Pov was responsible for the four Koreans being abducted and locked up in an extortion attempt gone wrong dating back more than two years.

Pov appeared in a blue prison uniform but looked jovial and relaxed throughout the hearing, telling the court in his final address to feel free to jail him for the maximum term if it felt the evidence warranted it. The court decided it did not, and found Pov and co-defendant, former anti-trafficking police chief Meng Say, not guilty. The charge carried up to 20 years imprisonment if they were convicted. However Pov and a scree of high ranking police alleged to have been in his employ still face a number of other charges and are being investigated for a series of serious crimes including extortion, murder and kidnappings.

Pov and his co-defendant were returned to Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison after the hearing, which was marked by tight security. The fall from grace of Pov and his cohorts last year shocked Cambodia and undermined public faith in a police and judicial system already viewed as corrupt and tainted by many Khmers. - Sapa-dpa.
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