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Mu Sochua Fined in Defamation Case

The opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua was fined more than $4,000 for defamation Tuesday, after a Phnom Penh judge ruled in favor of Prime Minister Hun Sen in a case that has heightened criticism of political bias in the courts.

Mu Sochua was ordered to pay 8.5 million riel, or $2,125, in fines to the state and 8 million riel, or $2,000, in compensation to Hun Sen, in a defamation countersuit against her.

Mu Sochua alleged in court and in public that the premier made derogatory remarks about her in the 2008 election campaign, by referring to her as a “strong-leg” in a speech.

“Today, the court could have been a light for justice,” Mu Sochua told reporters after the verdict was announced Tuesday. “The judge gave us darkness instead.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruled that Mu Sochua had “defamed the long-serving premier when she tried to sue him.”

Mu Sochua, who says she was unable to find a representation after her first lawyer, facing defamation charges of his own, quit the case, said she would appeal the decision.

“I cannot accept such a conviction,” the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian said. “It has no justice, because political power mixed with the law in the decision. The court is not independent and neutral.”

The court’s decision was “on the order from a politician and turned the victim into a convict,” Mu Sochua said. The decision “does not stand on the law,” she said.

Government lawyer Ky Tech, once the president of the Cambodian Bar Association, said Tuesday the court had made “a fair and transparent decision.”