MURDER TRIAL OF CAMBODIAN PMS NEPHEW ADJOURNED


2004-01-15
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Judge says investigation into shooting spree accusations is incomplete

Listen to the original broadcast in Khmer

The trial of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's nephew Nim Sophea for the murder of three people during an Oct. 27 shooting spree resumed Wednesday, but was adjourned again almost immediately after the judge ruled the investigation was incomplete.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court postponed the trial of Nim Sophea, 22, who was charged Nov. 25 with three counts of murder and multiple traffic violations for allegedly racing through Phnom Penh streets firing an AK-47 rifle on Oct. 27.

Three people were killed from bullet wounds and four were injured in traffic accidents. Nim Sophea has pleaded not guilty.

During the hearing, which lasted about 15 minutes, presiding judge Tan Sinarong, told the court: "Last night I looked at all the documents of this case. I saw that there are many loopholes in the judiciary procedures by our investigating judge on many very vital issues." He declined to elaborate further on those points.

Nguon Sothearith, the representative of the four people injured during the incident, reacted strongly to the news: "I was not invited by the court to join the trial, [but] I think this delay is deliberate on the part of the court, which wants to buy more time to make the victims reluctant to struggle anymore for justice," he said.

But he vowed to continue to fight for his clients. "They are wrong. I am strongly committed to fight for justice to the last," he said. He has already vowed to appeal if he is not satisfied that the trial is a fair one.

The trial has already been postponed once, last week, when Nim Sophea's lawyer proposed another witness whom he alleges is responsible for the incident.

Police arrested Nim Sophea after a month-long search. Nim Sophea's younger brother Nim Chantana and another man named So Van are also believed to be in police custody for taking part in the shooting spree.

Nim Sophea is a son of Hun Sen's sister, Hun Sinath, a Foreign Ministry official. She is married to Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Nim Chan Dara, who was the ambassador to Burma until recently.

The case has attracted public interest because of the defendant's connection to the prime minister, and the courtroom was packed with reporters and observers.

Nim Sophea, who refused to comment, wore a baseball cap and held his head down to avoid photographers as he left the courtroom.

Hun Sinath told RFA last week: "I don't know much about my son's case. I am counting on the court and his lawyer to do a good job."

Nim Sophea's case is not the first time relatives of the prime minister have tangled with the law. Two of Hun Sen's nephews�Hun To and Hun Chea, both sons of the prime minister's elder brothers�were accused of involvement in a December 2001 shootout at a shopping center in the capital.

The nephews were jailed briefly, but a court later released them, saying investigators had insufficient evidence to support charges that they possessed guns and were involved in the shooting. #####

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