Human Rights

Housing Activists Sentenced to Three Years Each in Prison

Both activists were charged under a new penal code for “aggravating circumstances” in the alleged assault of two men in August.

Supporters of Yorm Bopha and her husband, Lours Sakhorn, say they are being punished by the courts for exercising their right to assembly.
Supporters of Yorm Bopha and her husband, Lours Sakhorn, say they are being punished by the courts for exercising their right to assembly.
Heng ReaksmeySay Mony
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday sentenced two housing activists to three years in prison each on charges related to incitement in demonstrations.
 
Supporters of Yorm Bopha and her husband, Lours Sakhorn, say they are being punished by the courts for exercising their right to assembly.
 
Demonstrators gathered outside the court as the hearing was conducted Thursday. Riot police armed with electric batons held protesters at bay, and at least four women fainted after they were shocked with the batons.
 
Both activists were charged under a new penal code for “aggravating circumstances” in the alleged assault of two men in August, during a demonstration against the forced eviction of residents at the Boeung Kak lake area in Phnom Penh.
 
The court also issued guilty verdicts in absentia for two other activists, Yorm Kanlonn and Yorm Seth.
 
Defense attorney Chan Socheat said witnesses gave unclear statements to the court, while documents appeared to be forged or altered. He said he would appeal the decision.
 
Rights advocates say the two activists are being used as examples to deter further demonstrations over ongoing land disputes, by a court system widely viewed as biased toward powerful interests.
 
“I think with this case the court is trying to stop land protests,” said Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
 
Speaking to reporters at the court, Yorm Bopha said the court had failed to deliver justice in the case. “This is injustice in the money-and-dollar society,” she said.
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Former Khmer Rouge Head of State in Court for Genocide Hearingi
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Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge president, Khieu Samphan, arrived in court on Wednesday (July 30) for an initial hearing on charges for genocide, crimes against humanity, and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Khieu Samphan was at the apex of power within the Khmer Rouge, a regime responsible for the deaths of around 1.7 million Cambodians during their time in power from 1975-79. The former official, along with regime head Pol Pot's deputy, Nuon Chea, is already on trial for crimes against humanity associated with the forced evacuation of the capital Phnom Penh and the executions of soldiers. This second round of hearings centres around a far broader list of charges, and will likely have a greater significance for many survivors of the regime. (Reuters, Phnom Penh.)

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