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Instead of Verdict, Cambodian Judge Orders New Investigation of Reporters’ Spy Case 

FILE - Journalists Uon Chhin, left, and Yeang Sothearin arrive at the municipal court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 30, 2019.

A Cambodian judge Thursday ordered a reinvestigation in the espionage case against two former Radio Free Asia journalists, saying he could not rule on their guilt or innocence without enough evidence.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Im Vannak ordered the new investigation on the day he was scheduled to deliver a verdict in the case against the two reporters, Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin.

The 2-year-old case has added to concerns about a crackdown on criticism and dissent by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who extended his rule of more than three decades in a general election last year after the main opposition party leader was arrested on treason charges and his party banned.

In a statement, John Lansing - the out-going CEO of the US Agency for Global Media, the agency that oversees RFA and other U.S. international broadcasters such as VOA - called the court's action "unacceptable" and said the international community should respond accordingly.

"While these continuing acts of intimidation and repression are meant to instill fear, they only underscore USAGM'sresolutesupport forits journalists and networks, including RFA," Lansing's statement read. "Together, we will continue to provide the Cambodian people with accurate, objective and professional journalism and to shine a light on the political and humanitarian crises facing the country."

The two former reporters for Washington-based RFA were arrested in November 2017 and charged with espionage and producing pornography. They denied the charges.

Hun Sen has accused the United States of trying to end his rule.

RFA earlier in 2017 shut down its Phnom Penh office complaining of a “relentless crackdown on independent voices.”