CNRP member Meach Sovannara is escorted out of Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday afternoon after
he and 10 others were convicted on insurrection charges. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Meas Sokchea, The Phnom Penh Post, Wed, 22 July 2015
Eleven opposition activists, including a US citizen, were handed lengthy prison sentences yesterday for their roles in a protest at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park last year that turned violent and left dozens injured.
In a decision that came as a surprise to many, judge Lim Makaron ruled that the Cambodia National Rescue Party members were guilty of trying to foment an “insurrection” by taking part in a demonstration led by CNRP lawmakers at the public square on July 15, 2014.
“The 11 activists were sent to jail after the lawyers boycotted the trial today,” Sam Sokong, lawyer for the defence, said after the ruling.
He added that the lawyers had boycotted the proceedings because the court had called for the trial to resume on a daily basis.
“The court did not listen to the lawyers and continued the trial.… They moved quickly and decided to issue a guilty verdict,” he said.
Meach Sovannara, a Cambodian-American and head of the CNRP’s information and media department, was convicted of “leading an insurrection” and sentenced to 20 years in jail. CNRP activists Oeur Narith and Khin Chhumroeun, the president of the party’s youth wing, received the same sentence.
Eight other party activists were sentenced to seven years for joining the “insurrection”.
Observers have long asserted that the case against Sovannara and the other activists was being used by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to exert pressure on the opposition during the long negotiations over new laws governing elections.
In April, the activist was released on bail just hours after the formation of the new National Election Committee – a key part of the negotiations – leading some to express optimism that the case would be thrown out amid a “culture of dialogue” between Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP president Sam Rainsy.
Thirty-nine security personnel and at least six protesters were injured when opposition demonstrators turned on a group of notoriously violent Daun Penh district security guards at the July protest following a scuffle between the rally-goers and the advancing guards.
The main contingent of the guards quickly retreated as the protesters fought back, leaving several ill-equipped guards among them to suffer the full force of the CNRP supporters’ rage, pent up over months of violent crackdowns on opposition protests.
Sokong yesterday said that his clients should have been afforded more time to seek additional legal assistance before a sentence was passed.
“The court seemed to hatch a plot to close this case [yesterday] even though there were no lawyers present,” he said. “If lawyers boycott the court, it must give them more time.”
The case has been heard intermittently since December, with questionable evidence presented to the judge, according to rights groups.
Jamie Meach, Sovannara’s wife, who resides in the US, said yesterday that she had lost all confidence in the Cambodian justice system and would now seek urgent consular assistance from the US Embassy and from Washington if her husband wants to leave Cambodia.
“I relied on the lawyers and the court in Cambodia, but I have lost hope. So I must seek intervention from this side, but I don’t know if he will be able to come back [to the US] or not,” she said.
“If he wants to come back, I will seek help from the US Embassy and US Congress, because he is an American national. If he wants to come, it will be OK.”
Judge Makaron could not be reached for comment.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith declined to comment on the decision, saying the party’s “culture of dialogue” with the CPP “is in the interests of the Khmer people”.
Rainsy, who last night left for a three-week trip to France, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Phay Siphan, Council of Ministers spokesman, said the detente between the two parties could not be allowed to interfere with the judge’s decision, because political leaders “do not have superiority over the courts”.
Local advocacy group Licadho decried yesterday’s proceedings as “a show trial with a predetermined ending, apparently set up only to intimidate the CNRP”, and called for the verdicts to be overturned.
Cambodian Court Sentences Opposition Party Activists on ‘Insurrection Charges’
|CNRP media director Meach Sovannara (L) is transferred to Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh, July 21, 2015. RFA|
A Cambodian court on Tuesday sentenced 11 opposition party activists to prison terms of up to 20 years on insurrection charges for participating in a protest that turned violent, prompting the defendants’ lawyers and rights groups to denounce the harsh penalties.
After judges at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Meach Sovannara, media director of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and 10 others, they were sent to the notorious Prey Sar prison.
Chhoung Chou Ngy, a CNRP activist lawyer, called the convictions a great injustice for his clients.
“The court convictions were groundless,” he said, adding that he was among the eight defense lawyers who did not participate in the trial, because he wasn’t informed well in advance and received notice of the trial only yesterday. Only one lawyer attended the hearing.
He went on to say that Meach Sovannara, one of his clients, did not commit any crimes.
“During the trial, the plaintiffs didn’t say that my client committed a crime,” he said, adding that he would ask Meach Sovannara if he wanted to appeal the verdict.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said his party was monitoring the situation closely.
“We are very unhappy with the court conviction, because they [the defendants] didn’t commit any crimes,” he said, adding that the CNRP would continue discussing the situation with its lawyers to decide whether to take further action.
The opposition party activists were arrested after a demonstration in July 2014, which resulted in violent clashes between protesters and security forces in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park.
The activists were taken into custody as the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was holding talks with the CNRP to end a year-long dispute over the outcome of the general elections in July 2013, which the opposition claims was rigged in favor of the CPP.
Yem Ponhearith noted that it had been a year since the two political parties agreed to ease tensions between them, but now they appeared to be reversing course.
“We will use the culture of dialogue to seek solutions,” he said. “We don’t want to win or lose.”
However, the CNRP did not have any plans to discuss the cases of the convicted activists with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“The CNRP is studying ways to resolve the problem,” he added.
No acts of violence committed
Meach Sovannara, Ouer Narith, a CNRP official at the Public Affairs Department, and Khin Chamreun, chief of Phnom Penh’s CNRP Youth Movement, received 20-year sentences for participating in and directing an insurrectionary movement, according to the Cambodian human rights group Licadho.
The other eight – Sum Puthy, CNRP Chbar Ampov district council member; Neang Sokhun, Chbar Ampov district youth leader; San Kimheng, Tuol Kork district youth leader; youth members Tep Narin, San Seihak, and An Batham; and CNRP supporters Ouk Pich Samnang and Ke Khim – received seven-year sentences for participating in an insurrectionary movement.
None of the plaintiffs at the trial identified any of the 11 defendants as having committed an act of violence during the event, Licadho said in a statement.
Licadho also pointed out that when judges unexpectedly called for closing arguments during the trial, the defendants requested a delay until their lawyers could attend. But the judges denied their request and announced the verdicts after only 15 minutes of deliberation.
“Police entered the courtroom as soon as the judges went to deliberate the verdict,” said Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho. “This makes it clear that this was a show trial with a predetermined ending, apparently set up only to intimidate the CNRP following this weekend’s events in Svay Rieng [province].”
CNRP activists had led a group of local villagers to a site in southeastern Cambodia’s Svay Rieng province near the border with Vietnam to demonstrate against what they say are moves by the Vietnamese to encroach upon Cambodian territory.
“It is no coincidence that two of the three men sentenced to a ludicrous 20 years were present in Svay Rieng during the standoff,” Naly Pilorge said.
London-based rights group Amnesty International also weighed in on the outcome of the trial.
“This trial lacked the most basic fair trial guarantees, and the convictions of these 11 activists should be overturned immediately,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty’s research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in a statement issued Tuesday. “The proceedings were littered with flaws and the defendants were denied the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal.”
Reported by Morm Moniroth for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Cambodia opposition activists jailed for up to 20 years for 'insurrection': lawyer
|Cambodia has been ruled for 30 years by Prime |
Minister Hun Sen: AFP
Eleven Cambodian opposition members and activists were jailed on insurrection charges Tuesday, a defence lawyer said, including three who received a 20-year sentence.
Those jailed are from the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and were arrested during clashes with authorities in July 2014 against the closure of Phnom Penh's main designated protest site.
"This is a very serious sentencing. We lawyers cannot accept these convictions," Sam Sokong, one of the group's defence counsel told AFP, adding his eight other clients received seven years in jail.
Local rights group LICADHO described the proceedings as a "show trial with a predetermined ending, apparently set up only to intimidate the CNRP" -- adding that the surprise sentencing was made without the presence of most of the group's lawyers.
Cambodia has been ruled for 30 years by Prime Minister Hun Sen, a strongman who has tolerated little dissent during his time in office.
The CNRP is the country's main opposition party to Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
The controversial insurrection charges were made at the end of a protracted political standoff between the CPP and the CNRP after the 2013 election.
At the time opposition lawmakers were refusing to take their seats in parliament alleging that the election had been unfairly won by Hun Sen.
A decision in July 2014 to close the capital's main protest site at Freedom Park sparked violent demonstrations with injuries on both sides.
ម៉ែន គឹមសេងVOA Khmer 21 កក្កដា 2015
|លោក មាជ សុវណ្ណារ៉ា (កណ្តាល) ជាប្រធាននាយកដ្ឋានព័ត៌មាននៃគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ អមដោយប៉ូលិសនៅ|
ឯតុលាការក្រុងភ្នំពេញនៅថ្ងៃទី២១ ខែកក្កដា ឆ្នាំ២០១៥។
លោក មាជ សុវណ្ណារ៉ា ប្រធាននាយកដ្ឋានព័ត៌មានគណបក្សឆាំង លោក ឃិនជំរឿន និងលោកអឿ ណារិទ្ធ ត្រូវបានកាត់ទោសឱ្យជាប់ពន្ធនាគារចំនួន២០ឆ្នាំ រីឯអ្នកដទៃទៀតត្រូវបានកាត់ទោសឱ្យជាប់ពន្ធនាគារចំនួន៧ឆ្នាំក្នុងម្នាក់ៗ។
លោកមាជ សុវណ្ណារ៉ា បានចាត់ទុកថានេះជា«រឿងនយោបាយ»ហើយវាគួរតែ បញ្ចប់នៅពេលដែលមានដំណោះស្រាយនយោបាយមុនពេលដែលគណបក្សប្រឆាំងព្រមចូលប្រជុំសភាកាលពីឆ្នាំ២០១៤។
លោកស្រី Naly Pilorge នាយកអង្គការសិទ្ធិមនុស្សលីកាដូបានបញ្ជាក់ថា៖
«ការកាត់ទោសនេះបង្ហាញយ៉ាងច្បាស់ថាវាគឺជាការកាត់ទោសដែលមានការកំណត់ពេលបញ្ចប់ជាមុន ដែលរៀបចំ ឡើងដើម្បីបំភិតបំភ័យគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ»។
ចំណែកលោកអំ សំអាតប្រធានបច្ចេកទេសស៊ើបអង្កេតនៃអង្គការសិទ្ធិមនុស្សលីកាដូក៏បានភ្ជាប់ហេតុការណ៍នេះទៅនឹងការធ្វើពហិការរបស់អ្នកតំណាងរាស្ត្រគណបក្សប្រឆាំងចំនួន៥៥នាក់ដែលមិនចូលរួមអនុម័តសេចក្តី ព្រាងច្បាប់អង្គការក្នុងពេលថ្មីៗ នេះ។
តុលាការសាលាដំបូងរាជធានីភ្នំពេញ បានបើកសវនាការលើសំណុំរឿងក្តីបាតុកម្មនៅទីលានប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ ចាប់តាំងពីថ្ងៃទី២០ ខែកក្កដា ឆ្នាំ២០១៥។ រហូតដល់រសៀលថ្ងៃទី២១កក្កដានេះ ចៅក្រមបានប្រកាសសាលក្រម ផ្តន្ទាទោស និងបង្គាប់ឲ្យចាប់ខ្លួនសកម្មជនគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិទាំង ១១ រូបនោះ ដាក់ពន្ធនាគារ៕
CNRP activists sentenced for 'insurrection'
Meas Sokchea, The Phnom Penh Post, Tue, 21 July 2015
|Cambodia National Rescue Party official Meach Sovannara leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday after|
attending a hearing against him and five fellow opposition activists accused of leading an insurrection. Heng Chivoan
ELEVEN opposition activists were handed down lengthy prison sentences on Tuesday for their roles in a protest at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park last year that turned violent and left dozens injured.
In a decision that will come as a surprise to many, Judge Lim Makaron ruled that the Cambodia National Rescue Party members were guilty of taking part in an “insurrection” by attending a demonstration led by CNRP lawmakers at the public square on July 15, 2014.
“Eleven activists were sent to jail after the lawyers boycotted the trial today," Sam Sokong, lawyer for the defence, said after the ruling.
Meach Sovannara, the head of the CNRP’s information and media department, was convicted of “leading an insurrection” and sentenced to 20 years. CNRP activists Oeur Narith and Khin Chamroeun, the president of the party’s youth wing, received the same sentence.
Eight other party activists were sentenced to seven years for joining the “insurrection”.
Observers have long asserted that the case of the most prominent member of the group on trial, Sovannara, was being used by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to exert pressure on the opposition during the long negotiations over new laws governing elections.
In April, the activist was released on bail just hours after the formation of the new National Election Committee – a key part of the negotiations – leading some to express optimism that the case was to be thrown out amid a “culture of dialogue” between Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP president Sam Rainsy.
Thirty-nine security personnel and at least six protesters were injured when opposition demonstrators attacked a group of notoriously violent Daun Penh district security guards at the July protest.
11 Cambodian opposition activists jailed for insurrection charges
English.news.cn 2015-07-21 18:56:12
PHNOM PENH, July 21 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodia's Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday convicted eleven opposition activists of leading or participating in an insurrection and sentenced them between 7 and 20 years in prison, according to a verdict.
They were found guilty of either leading or joining an insurrection during a violent protest near the Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on July 15, 2014 that left more than 40 people injured, mostly security personnel.
"The court decides to sentence Meach Sovannara (head of the Information Department of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party), Oeur Narith and Khin Chamroeun (both are opposition party officials) to 20 years in prison for leading an insurrection," said a verdict announced by Presiding Judge Lim Makaron.
The verdict added that the other eight activists were sentenced to seven years in prison for participating in the insurrection.
The court also fined each of them between 2,000 and 5,000 U.S. dollars.
In April, the 11 party officials and activists were freed on bail, but were re-arrested and sent back into jail on Tuesday while they appeared in court to hear the verdict.
ដោយ ម៉ម មុនីរតន៍ 2015-07-21 RFA
សាលាដំបូងរាជធានីភ្នំពេញ បានប្រកាសសាលក្រមផ្ដន្ទាទោសសកម្មជន និងមន្ត្រីគណបក្សសង្រ្គោះជាតិ ១១នាក់ ឲ្យជាប់ពន្ធនាគារក្នុងម្នាក់ៗចន្លោះពី ៧ឆ្នាំ ទៅ ២០ឆ្នាំ ពីបទចោទដឹកនាំធ្វើកុប្បកម្មនាំឲ្យមានអំពើហិង្សានៅលើស្ពាននាគ ក្បែរទីលានប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ។
សកម្មជនទាំង ១១នាក់នោះ មាន លោក មាជ សុវណ្ណារ៉ា លោក អឿ ណារិទ្ធិ លោក អាន បឋម និងមួយចំនួនទៀត។
តុលាការបានប្រកាសឲ្យសមត្ថកិច្ចចាប់ខ្លួនភ្លាមៗ បន្ទាប់ពីប្រកាសសាលក្រមនៅរសៀលថ្ងៃទី២១ កក្កដា នេះ ហើយបញ្ជូនទៅឃុំខ្លួននៅពន្ធនាគារព្រៃស។
កាលពីព្រឹកនេះ មេធាវីការពារក្ដីជនជាប់ចោទសកម្មជនបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ ១០នាក់ ក្នុងចំណោម ១១នាក់ ធ្វើពហិការមិនចូលរួមសវនាការនាសាលាដំបូងរាជធានីភ្នំពេញ។
ក្រុមមេធាវីអះអាងថា ពួកគេមិនមានពេលវេលាគ្រប់គ្រាន់ក្នុងការចូលរួមក្នុងសវនាការ ហើយការដែលចូលរួមក្នុងសវនាការរាល់ថ្ងៃជាប់ៗគ្នា អាចធ្វើឲ្យប៉ះពាល់ដល់សុខភាពរបស់ពួកគេ ដូច្នេះវាអាចធ្វើឲ្យប៉ះពាល់ដល់ដំណើរក្ដីទាំងមូល។