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Monday, January 02, 2012

Opposition Lawmaker Charged After Immunity Suspension

Chan Cheng and a party lawyer are accused of helping a party activist, Meas Peng, wanted for questioning in a land dispute between villagers and a ruling-party official flee the detention center, in what both say is a politically motivated case.


The Kandal provincial court on Tuesday issued charges against a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker who allegedly helped a party activist escape provisional detention.

The move comes after the suspension of lawmaker Chan Cheng’s parliamentary immunity last week.

Chan Cheng and a party lawyer are accused of helping a party activist, Meas Peng, wanted for questioning in a land dispute between villagers and a ruling-party official flee the detention center, in what both say is a politically motivated case.

Chan Cheng, who is currently in hiding abroad, has said he did not abuse his parliamentary protections by driving Meas Peng away from the detention center, because no formal charges had been issued.

Meas Peng, a deputy commune councilor in Kandal province, was accused of involvement in protests against a company in an ongoing land dispute there and brought in for questioning last month.

Local rights groups said Monday the National Assembly, which is heavily dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, abused its power in revoking Chan Cheng’s immunity ahead of local and national elections in 2012 and 2013, a charge the government rejects.

Ouk Kimseth, Kandal court’s prosecutor, said Chan Cheng and lawyer Chour Chou Ngy were charged with providing transportation to Meas Peng, who has also been charged with “escaping.”

Chan Cheng and Chour Chou Ngy could face up to three years in prison if convicted, he said.

Chour Chou Ngy said Tuesday the accusation was “abusive” and “wrong” and that the Kandal court did not have a detention order to hold Meas Peng at the time they left.
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Court Issues Summons for Opposition Attorney

Opposition lawmaker Chan Cheng, who was also blamed in the alleged escape, went into hiding in December after ruling party members of the National Assembly voted to revoke his parliamentary immunity..Kandal provincial court on Monday issued a summons for an opposition party lawyer who is wanted for questioning alongside an opposition lawmaker for allegedly abetting the escape of a court suspect.

The investigating judge for the Kandal court said Chhoung Chun Ngy, a lawyer for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, has been summoned to appear Jan. 18 to answer charges of helping a deputy commune chief named Meas Peng escape questioning at the provincial detention center late last year.
Rights groups have condemned legal action in the case, saying the government is abusing the power of the court to hurt the opposition ahead of elections later this year.

Opposition lawmaker Chan Cheng, who was also blamed in the alleged escape, went into hiding in December after ruling party members of the National Assembly voted to revoke his parliamentary immunity.

Sin Visal, investigating judge for Kandal court, said he had issued his summons for Chhoung Chu Ngy “following the rule of law.”

Chhoung Chu Ngy briefly disappeared on Thursday last week, but he appeared shaken before a press conference on Friday to say he had avoided arrest.

He said then he would shave his head and wear white for 12 days in thanks for his escape. He could not be reached Monday.

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