PHNOM PENH —
A court in Cambodia has sentenced an opposition senator to a year and six months behind bars and a fine for reportedly making comments linking Prime Minister Hun Sen to the killing of prominent political commentator Kem Ley.
Thak Lany, a senator for the Sam Rainsy Party, was sued by Hun Sen in early August after a video emerged, posted on pro-ruling party website Freshnews, that purported to show Lany blaming Hun Sen for the July 10 killing.
Touch Thavrak, Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge, added that Lany would be required to pay a 100 riel (about 2 cents) compensation payment to Hun Sen as a symbolic gesture.
Sam Sokong, Lany’s lawyer, said the decision was “unfair” and the court had not reviewed key evidence in the case.
“If we look at the seriousness of the case, it was minimal, but the court decided to detain my client. This was so inappropriate,” he said.
Thavrak, the spokesman, said the decision of the court was final, but Lany’s legal team could file an appeal if they wished.
Since the charges was laid, Lany has left the country to avoid legal proceedings.
Chhun Bun San, Lany’s husband, claimed that the video published by Freshnews had been doctored.
“All Khmer people around the country, nobody would dare do something like that, and Thank Lany didn’t dare to say that either.”
Ki Tech, Hun Sen’s lawyer, said he was satisfied with the verdict.
“What can we do with 100 riel? I think we all know we cannot do anything with 100 riel, but it shows the people that this is the law,” he said.
Sok Sam Oeun, an leading human rights lawyer, said the court’s interpretation of the case was “vague” and could restrict freedom of speech and expression.
“For example, if we incited someone to kill people, it would count as incitement. But inciting a crime without knowing what you are inciting...I think the interpretation of the court is incorrect,” he said.
“A case like this can be used for political gain, and incitement can affect freedom of expression.”