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Cambodian Opposition Leader to Face Trial

Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), welcomes British Ambassador to Cambodia, at his home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 13, 2019.

Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha will face trial on treason charges after investigators found enough evidence to proceed with the case, a court said on Monday.

Kem Sokha was arrested in 2017 and his opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was banned ahead of an election last year that was condemned by Western countries, who have demanded his release by veteran authoritarian leader Hun Sen.

“After investigation and questioning, the judge understands that there’s enough evidence against the accused Kem Sokha of treason charges in collusion with foreigners,” the Phnom Penh municipal court said in a statement.

A court spokesman said no trial date had yet been set.

Kem Sokha was freed from house arrest last month but a ban on his engaging in political activity was kept in place.

His release has been demanded by the European Union, which is currently considering whether to remove lucrative trade privileges from Cambodia over its crackdown on the opposition, activists and the media.

Kem Sokha’s daughter said the decision to put Kem Sokha on trial showed bad faith from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party at a time when the EU trade privileges were at risk and measures were also under consideration in the U.S. Congress.

“This attitude from the regime is not helping,” Monovithya Kem told Reuters.

Kem Sokha has said the charges against him were nonsense.

The only evidence presented against him in public so far is comment he made at a public meeting in which he said he was getting advice from unspecified Americans on election strategy ahead of a 2013 ballot.