LAWYER CALLS FOR RELEASE OF TERROR SUSPECTS IN CAMBODIA


2003-12-17
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Suspects detained longer than maximum time allowed for investigation

The lawyer for three foreign Muslims detained in Cambodia on charges of international terrorism has demanded their release, saying his clients have been detained for longer than the maximum six months allowed by law, RFA's Khmer service reports.

The three men are identified as Abdul Azi Haji Chiming, 35, and Muhammad Yalalu Mading, 41, of Thai nationality, and a 40-year-old Egyptian man, Esam Muhammad Khird Ali. They were arrested by Cambodian police in different places on May 25, 2003.

"The court must release these men if it cannot find sufficient evidence to support the charges against them," lawyer Keou Sopha told RFA. He said the men had now been in custody for six months and 17 days, longer than the maximum allowed by Cambodia's penal code.

Esam Muhammed Khird Ali was arrested on a highway near Phnom Penh on his way to Kampong Chnang Province, while the two Thai Muslims were arrested at an Islamic school in Kandal Province near Phnom Penh.

Cambodia's legal processes are modeled on the French system. Investigating Judge Ou Bunna told RFA that he had done a full investigation and passed his findings to the prosecutor for a final decision on whether or not to go ahead with a trial. There had been no reply yet about a date for a trial.

A court official said one of the suspects had confessed to watching Arabic-language VCDs and material related to planting bombs, but that no material evidence had been uncovered.

Meanwhile, the United States has started funding training courses for Cambodia's Muslim community in an effort to block inroads by Islamic fundamentalists in the traditionally moderate sect, a local newspaper reported.

U.S. Embassy officials opened a workshop Thursday at a mosque in Phnom Penh with the participation of Cham leaders and 22 trainees. The aim of the workshop was to show trainees how to pass on their knowledge of human rights and democracy to Cham communities in the provinces, with an emphasis is on an anti-terrorism message.

The workshop was funded by a grant of U.S. $25,000 from Washington, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

Most Cambodian Muslims belong to the Cham ethnic minority, who make up less than 5 percent of the country's some 13 million population.#####

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