PHNOM PENH - The Court of Appeals on Friday denied a request by the owner of Beehive radio that he be freed on bail until his appeal hearing, saying his dual citizenship made him a flight risk.
Mam Sonando, 72, who also holds a French passport, is serving a 20-year prison sentence on charges related to sedition that critics say are politically motivated and that have caused concern amid US and international observers.
Mam Sonando had appealed to be released on bail pending his Appeals Court hearing, after he was found guilty by Phnom Penh Municipal court for helping foment a secessionist movement among villagers in Kratie province.
Mam Sonando, whose radio station carries programming from the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and other international broadcasters, has maintained his innocence. He told the court Friday he is losing a kilogram a month in weight and that he fears for his health while in prison. He told the court he had committed no crimes and had returned to Cambodia from a trip abroad to face the charges against him.
However, Appeals Court president judge Khun Leang Meng said bail would not be granted because Mam Sonando is considered a flight risk, and that his release could “affect public order.”
Supporters gathered outside the court on Friday, calling for his release.
Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said he was “disappointed” in the judgment from the court, saying the charges against Mam Sonando, which came after he publicly criticized Prime Minister Hun Sen, were a violation of his freedom of speech.
Din Phanara, Mam Sonando’s wife, and Sa Sovan, his lawyer, said they would continue to appeal for his release.