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Terrorism Charges Dismissed Against 5 Suspected JI Members - 2004-02-27

A Cambodian court has dismissed terrorism charges against five men accused of being members of the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah. However, the judge ordered the suspects remain in custody while prosecutors reinvestigate the case and file new charges.

Judge Ya Sokhan dismissed terrorism charges Friday against two Egyptians, two Thais and one Cambodian. Prosecutors say the men are members of the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah - the same group blamed for the October 2002 Bali bombing, and other attacks.

The men are members of a group accused of using Saudi-funded Islamic schools to cover terrorist training activities.

Police closed two Islamic schools in late May last year and charged Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading from Thailand, and Egyptian Easm Mohammed Khidr Ali. Several days later, Cham Sman Esma El, from Cambodia was arrested.

One of the Egyptian men, Rousha Yasser, is being tried in absentia.

The judge did not give a reason for his surprise dismissal of the terrorism charges. He also did not explain why he ordered the men to remain in custody while Cambodian prosecutors bring new charges of attempted premeditated murder.

Earlier, however, defense lawyers pointed out that Cambodia does not have a specific anti-terrorism law. At one point, defense attorneys walked angrily out of the court, insisting the judge had failed to adequately explain the charges to the accused.

A United States government terrorism expert who testified during the proceedings, told reporters he thought the trial "went very well" and noted appreciation for "Cambodia's assistance on the war on terrorism".

No new trial date has been set.