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Cheam Channy Sentenced

An opposition lawmaker was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison despite dubious evidence by government prosecutors. Cheam Channy was accused of building a private army that aimed to topple the government.

Many opposition activists and observers viewed the case and the verdict as politically motivated and as aimed to intimidate and undermine opponents critical of government policies and actions. They say the verdict is unfair.

Military Court Judge Ney Thol read the verdict, sentencing Cheam Channy to seven years in prison and an alleged associate, Khom Piseth, to five years. Khom Piseth was tried in absentia and currently is in Norway, where he received political asylum. The court charged Cheam Channy under legislation known as transitional penal code from the early 1990s Untac period.

Cheam Channy denied all charges and has maintained his innocence since he was arrested some six months ago. Sok Sam Ouen, the president of the Cambodia Defenders Project, a respected NGO that provides legal assistance, took issue with the proceedings, noting that witnesses from both sides should appear, and be questioned and cross-examined by lawyers from the other side.