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Senior Court Judge Murdered in Cambodia - 2003-04-23

Cambodian authorities say a senior court judge has been shot dead while on his way to work in Phnom Penh Wednesday. Judge Sok Sethmony handled one of the country's most politically-sensitive cases involving a former high-ranking Khmer Rouge official.

Judge Sok Sethamony was driving his car on bustling Sihanouk Boulevard at the busiest time of the morning Wednesday when he was shot through his windshield. Witnesses told police they saw two unidentified men on a motorbike drive up to his car and fire a pistol multiple times. The 42-year old judge died after being rushed to the emergency ward of Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh.

Police say they have not yet identified any suspects or motivation for the killing, but have launched what they called an "urgent investigation."

Judge Sethamony had presided over many sensitive cases involving organized crime, violent insurgents and former political leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

Late last year, Judge Sethamony sentenced former Khmer Rouge commander Sam Bith to life in prison for the 1994 murders of 13 Cambodians and three Western backpackers.

Bith is one of the highest-ranking Khmer Rouge officials to be tried in court - although not one has been sentenced to trial for genocide for their bloody four-year rule in the late 1970s.

Judge Sethamony also presided over the trials of members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters rebel group. The group was accused of launching a bloody November 2000 attack on the government.