The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned an Appeals Court decision in the drug smuggling case against Funcinpec military police official Chau Sokhon and sent the case back for further investigation.
Supreme Court President Dith Munty said the five-member panel “repudiates the improper verdict of the appeals court” in the case against the former deputy military police chief for Sihanoukville.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Chau Sokhon to three years in prison last year on drug smuggling charges, but details of the case were never made public. The appeals court apparently overturned the three-year verdict, but it is not clear when.
Chau Sokhon also was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a highly politicized drug case that was linked to an associate of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The appeals court reversed that verdict on Dec 26, 1997.
Chau Sokhon was freed, but was seized eight days after the conviction was overturned as he tried to leave the country under UN escort. He has been in PJ prison ever since. Authorities said at the time that the three-year conviction had not been overturned, although the supreme court’s decision Wednesday indicates it had been at some point.
The three appeals court judges who freed Chau Sokhon were later suspended by the Justice Ministry.
“If we look deeply, the case is influenced by politics,” Chau Sokhon’s lawyer, Mom Lux, said after Wednesday’s decision. “The evidence shows that Chau Sokhon is not guilty.”
Supreme Court Prosecutor Kim Pon, however, said “some points in the verdict of the appeals court are improper.”
Chau Sokhon was not in court on Wednesday. A court clerk read a statement by the defendant saying he was suffering heart trouble.
Several top Funcinpec officials declined to comment on the case Wednesday, while others have said the matter is up to the courts.
Chau Sokhon was originally sentenced on June 27, 1997, to 15 years and fined 50 million riel after he was convicted of smuggling 7 tons of marijuana inside a rubber shipment bound for Sri Lanka. Documents said the cargo was being transported under a permit belonging to Mong Reththy, a prominent businessman and adviser to Hun Sen. Mong Reththy says the papers were forged.
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