Saturday, February 19, 2011

Appeal verdict due

Christopher Howes
On Thursday of next week, the verdict is expected to be handed down in the appeal by the four men convicted in the 1996 murder of British deminer Christopher Howes. The Cambodian appeal court heard the case on 7 February, with lawyers for the accused arguing that their clients should have their sentences reduced or overturned because they did not mastermind the killing and faced death themselves if they did not obey orders. They also stated that their actions were covered by a pardon granted to Khmer Rouge defectors. It was in October 2008 that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted the four former Khmer Rouge soldiers of the kidnapping and murder of Howes, and his Khmer assistant Houn Hourth in March 1996, also ordering three of the convicted men to pay $10,000 in compensation to the widow of Hourth. A fifth suspect was acquitted. The guilty verdicts and 20 year jail sentences were handed down to Khem Nguon, who was known to be the 2nd in command of the Khmer Rouge forces at Anlong Veng, Loch Mao, who witnesses identified as the man who shot Howes, and their driver Puth Lim, who admitted being present at the murder and to burning the body. A fourth defendant, Sin Dorn was found guilty of kidnapping the deminers and received a ten year jail term. A fifth man, Chep Cheat was acquitted of his roll in the kidnap. A statement from Howes' sister Patricia Phillips, called for the verdicts to be upheld. “We have never sought revenge, but simply justice for these two fine and brave men, brutally murdered whilst carrying out life saving work.” Judge Um Sarith is expected to announce the verdict on 24 February. I've personally studied this case for a long time and I expect nothing less than confirmation of the original sentences and an order that the compensation is paid to the widow of Hourth without delay. The murdered men and their families deserve nothing less. You can read more the former Mines Advisory Group deminer, Christopher Howes and the facts, and fiction, behind the case, here.

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