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Cambodian man spends four years awaiting trial for petty theft

Written By vibykhmer on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 | 7:20 AM



Asia-Pacific News
Aug 25, 2009,

Phnom Penh - A 31-year-old man has spent nearly four years in a Cambodia prison awaiting trial on charges of stealing a mobile phone worth 15 dollars, national media reported.

Roeun Moeun was arrested in October 2005 along with three other men on suspicion of committing the crime, the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday. The other men have since been convicted or released by the provincial court in Kandal outside Phnom Penh.

His defence attorney said when the judge ruled on the original case last year, he omitted Roeun Moeun's name from the ruling. For that reason he was not released.

'It is a serious violation of the rights of the accused,' the lawyer said. 'Why couldn't he receive justice from the court?'

The case appears to have been forgotten in the country's chaotic and inefficient court system. Court officials responsible for investigating the case over the years have been transferred to other provinces, with the result that Roeun Moeun's case was ignored.

Judge Leang Sour, who issued the original ruling last year, told the newspaper that he had been unable to release Roeun Moeun since he did not appear to be facing any charges.

'I returned his case to the prosecutor for further investigation and I never heard about it again,' he said.

In recent months several cases have emerged where suspects have been held for years before facing trial. In August a suspected drug smuggler was sentenced to 38 months in prison after she had spent all but five days of that time awaiting trial.

In response the government's human rights committee is reviewing the number of detainees in pre-trial detention in the nation's 25 prisons.

Under Cambodian law, pre-trial detention is limited to four months in the case of a misdemeanour if the potential sentence carries a term of more than a year.

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