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Supporters of Cheam Channy Appeal to the King to intervene

Supporters of jailed opposition party lawmaker Cheam Channy wrote Wednesday to King Norodom Sihamoni and asked the head of state to intervene in the controversial case.

Cheam Channy was sentenced Tuesday by a military court to seven years in prison purportedly for building a private army, but prosecutors presented meager evidence to support the allegation. Cheam Channy maintains his innocence.

Human rights groups, independent observers and several prominent foreign governments called the proceedings a mockery of justice. Opposition Sam Rainsy Party legislators, the defendant's wife, and his lawyers said that the conviction was unfair, a tool to intimidate opposition members, and politically motivated.

The US Embassy in Phnom Penh, and international and Cambodian human rights organizations condemned the conviction as a sham. Opposition party General Secretary, Eng Chhay Eang, said he has no trust in the Cambodian court system. Instead he trusts King Sihamoni, and hopes the king will grant Cheam Channy a pardon.

The defendant's lawyers and his wife have not decided whether to proceed to the Court of Appeal on the case or not. The lawyers said that no evidence was presented in court to support the conviction and no witness was allowed to testify on Mr. Cheam Channy's behalf.

President of the Center for Social Development, Chea Vannath, said that, legally, the king can pardon Cheam Channy. Former King Norodom Sihanouk pardoned his son Prince Norodom Ranaridh, his half-brother Prince Norodom Sirivudh, leading Funcinpec party member, Gen. Nhek Bun Chhay, and CPP's former high officials, Sin Song and Sin Sen, who were convicted by the same military court of plotting a coup d'etats in the 1990s.