>Cambodian prime minister requests release of jailed news editor

>Dam Sith being arrested by the police.

Phnom Penh – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote late Saturday to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court requesting the release of an imprisoned opposition newspaper editor on bail, journalists’ representatives said. The Cambodian Club of Journalists, which lobbied the prime minister personally Friday, said by telephone that the letter had been prepared and sent to the court at around 9 pm local time.

Dam Sith, an opposition candidate for the Sam Rainsy Party in elections scheduled next month and editor of pro-opposition Moneaksekar Kampuchea newspaper, was arrested last Sunday and detained on charges of disinformation, “insult” and defamation.

He is charged with printing allegedly defamatory comments made by opposition leader Sam Rainsy about Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

If Sith is released almost immediately, as expected after the prime minister’s intervention, it will add to claims by rights groups that the judiciary is not independent of government influence.

However, it is likely to please Sith and his family after his detention in one of the region’s most notorious jails, Prey Sar prison, for almost exactly one week.

His detention on civil charges is unheard of, but the court ruled he was a risk to witnesses – something which has infuriated rights and media advocates, who claim his imprisonment is a prime example of the Cambodian courts being used for political ends.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Hun Sen has repeatedly claimed Sith’s detention was a personal matter between Hor Namhong, who also serves as deputy prime minister and a party politbureau member, the court and Sith and was in no way linked to the party.

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