Hun Sen’s Nephew Convicted of Unintentional Murder
By KER MUNTHIT/PHNOM PENH (AP)
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew was found guilty today of unintentional murder for fatally shooting two people following a car race on the streets of the Cambodian capital last October, a judge said.
Nim Sophea, 22, was accused of firing an assault rifle wildly at passers-by last October in Phnom Penh, killing two people and injuring two others.
Nim Sophea had been charged with murder, but Judge Tan Senarong convicted him of the lesser charge of unintentional murder and sentenced him to three years in prison. Half of Nim Sophea’s sentence was suspended and he will spend five years on probation, said Tan Senarong.
The judge said Nim Sophea’s friend, Som Doeun, was the shooter, and convicted Som Doeun—a fugtive who is still at large—of intentional murder in the shootings and sentenced him in absentia to ten years in prison.
Tan Senarong declined to comment on why the charges against Nim Sophea were changed.
Nim Sophea’s attorney, Dy Borima, also declined to comment. He said he would discuss appealing the verdict with his client.
The trial resumed Thursday after two months of delay. It was adjourned two times in January, once when the defendant said he felt sick and again when the judge ruled the investigation was incomplete.
Reporters were not allowed into the courtroom on Thursday, but they could overhear some of the testimony through a window, including Nim Sophea’s denial of the charges.
Nim Sophea testified that Som Doeun was the gunman.
"I shouted, ‘Doeun, don’t shoot, you may hit someone.’ Then I managed to wrestle the gun from him," he said.
Nim Sophea is the son of Hun Sen’s sister, Hun Sinath, a Foreign Ministry official. She is married to Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Nim Chan Dara, who was the ambassador to Burma until recently.
In his closing statement, Dy Borima asked the judge to give Nim Sophea a light sentence for his "recklessness."
"My client had no intention whatsoever to cause the death of anyone—not at all. But he may have accidentally caused the gun to go off when he tried to grab it from Doeun," Dy Borima said.
The October shooting happened after Nim Sophea and his friends allegedly raced their cars through the streets of Phnom Penh. One of the vehicles crashed into a parked truck.
It wasn’t the first time that Hun Sen’s relatives have had run-ins with the law.
Two of Hun Sen’s nephews—Hun To and Hun Chea, both sons of the prime minister’s elder brothers—were accused of involvement in a December 2001 shootout at a shopping center in the capital.
The nephews were jailed briefly, but a court later released them, saying investigators had insufficient evidence to support charges that they possessed guns and were involved in the shooting.