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Cambodia Drops Murder Charges Against Wrongfully Convicted Activists

  • VOA News

Born Samnang (2nd L) and Sok Sam Oeun (2nd R) are escorted by police officers at the Supreme Court in central Phnom Penh, Sept. 25, 2013.

Born Samnang (2nd L) and Sok Sam Oeun (2nd R) are escorted by police officers at the Supreme Court in central Phnom Penh, Sept. 25, 2013.

Cambodia's Supreme Court has ordered the release of two men it says were wrongfully convicted of the 2004 murder of an influential opposition activist.

The Phnom Penh court on Wednesday dropped all charges against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, ruling there was no evidence against them.

The men were each sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of trade union leader Chea Vichea, who was killed at a newspaper stand in the capital in January 2004.

Chea Vichea's murder came amid a government crackdown on Cambodia's labor movement and was seen by many as an attempt to silence his criticism of the government.

Many international observers viewed the trial of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun as unfair and said the verdict was the result of a political decision by the ruling Cambodia People's Party, which largely controls the country's courts.

In 2008, the Supreme Court provisionally released the two men and demanded a retrial. But they were jailed again in December 2012 following a ruling by the Appeals Court. Each had served about five years of their prison sentences.

Both men strongly denied involvement in Chea Vichea's murder. No other suspects have been arrested.
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