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Court Sentences Eight CFF Members to Prison

With no participation either from the families or human rights observers, the Cambodian Supreme Court on Friday upheld the verdict of the eight members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) from six to sixteen-year in prison.

The Phnom Penh municipal court sentenced the eight men for establishing a terrorist group to overthrow the Phnom Penh's government through the attack in Phnom Penh in November 2000. Eight died and more than a dozen were wounded in the attack.

Two years ago, the Cambodian Court of Appeal upheld the municipal court's sentences. Six of the eight men were present when the Supreme Court declared its verdict today. One of the men died while in Prey Sar prison, while another man was sentenced in absentia.

Khim Pon, chief justice at today's hearing, explained the reason why the Supreme Court upheld the sentences.

"The authority confiscated a number of weapons, so the fact that the accused denied the accusation is not reliable. Therefore we sentenced Ou Sokhom, Nem Sopheap, Chea Chhoy, So Sain, Sin Soth and Khleung Savoeurn in person and Hang Nhorn and Yonn Yi in absentia. Keep the verdict by the court of appeal issued on April 20, 2005 in effect."

However, Kao Ty, lawyer of the defendants, challenged the Supreme Court's verdict, calling it unfair.

"The hearing is unjust. For one thing, the proof was brought in to make my clients accept. When they were arrested, my clients were unarmed. There was no proof even after the inquiries, yet at the hearing the court brought in the weapons as proof. The court said this is the proof of your activities, which bears the sign CFF. The court did not investigate my clients' case."

Neither the family members of the men nor the human rights workers were present at today's sentencing.

Fifty years old CFF's founder, Chhun Yasith, was indicted in June 2005 on charges related to the November 2000 clashes involving government forces in Phnom Penh. He was arrested at his home in Long Beach, California, by federal agents and has been awaiting trial in jail.