Opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to the media after a meeting in Phnom Penh last year. The self-exiled CNRP president was found guilty by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today of defaming National Assembly president Heng Samrin. Pha Lina
BREAKING: Sam Rainsy found guilty in Samrin defamation suit
Thu, 28 July 2016 ppp
Niem Chheng and Ananth Baliga
Beleaguered CNRP leader Sam Rainsy was found guilty this morning of defaming National Assembly president Heng Samrin in a Facebook post last November.
The trial, which was over in the span of an hour, centered on a Facebook post in which Rainsy alleged that the Heng Samrin-led government of 1979 convicted the late King Norodom Sihanouk for being a traitor and sentenced him to death in a show trial.
Following a 10-minute deliberation, Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Ros Piseth said Samrin’s complaint was consistent with Rainsy’s post and that the CNRP leader was guilty under Article 305 of the criminal code.
“Based on the facts and evidence, the court finds out that there is enough evidence against the accused, Sam Rainsy, for public defamation committed on Facebook page of Sam Rainsy on November, 17, 2015,” said Piseth.
Rainsy, who has been living in France in self-imposed exile since November and did not send legal representation to the trial, was ordered to pay 150 million riel, or $37,200, to Samrin and 10 million riel to the state. Rainsy already faces an arrest warrant in a separate defamation case brought by Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong.
The Facebook post consisted of text and a video of one of Sihanouk’s speeches. Though the prosecution requested the video be ignored, it was still played during the trial.
Deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth said he agreed with Samrin’s complaint and asked the court to move for conviction.
“There is enough evidence on his Facebook page,” he said. “So, I agree with the charge and request the court to decide according to law.”
After court proceedings, Samrin’s lawyer, Ky Tech, told reporters that the fine did not match the seriousness of Rainsy’s crime. He also claimed that Rainsy’s post misled young people, who had commented on the post and now had a distorted view of history.
“The youth who did not know the history, now believe that there really was a trial [against Sihanouk],” he said. “So, it strongly affects the reputation of Samdech Heng Samrin, who had the top position during that time.”
“I will talk to Samdech Heng Samrin to see if he accepts [the verdict] or not. If not, we will go to appeal court to demand more compensation,” he added.