PHNOM PENH - The Cambodian Appeals Court on Wednesday held a hearing in the case of housing rights activist Yorm Bopha, who is serving three years for allegedly instigating violence in an altercation in Phnom Penh last year.
Yorm Bopha was arrested in August 2012 after she appeared at the scene of a fight between two men who were drinking rice wine at a drink shop in the Boeung Kak neighborhood of the capital, according to the rights group Licadho.
Two men were injured in the fight, where Yorm Bopha and her husband were bystanders, Licadho says. But the group also says she was already on a police “black list” and was arrested at the scene and charged with encouraging violence there due to her activism as a leader in protests against land grabs and forced evictions.
Rights workers say the charges seem to be exaggerated and her arrest is more likely an attempt to curb ongoing protests against forced evictions, land grabs and other land and housing disputes.
Yorm Bopha appeared before the court for a hearing that lasted more than five hours, as hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside to demand her release. Appeals Court judge Taing Sun Lay said the hearing will continue on June 14, with six more witnesses expected to testify.
Inside the courtroom, Yorm Bopha said she had not been involved in the altercation. Her defense attorney, Ham Sunrith, said later that the hearing had provided a chance to present evidence that could help Yorm Bopha’s case.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor for the rights group Licahdo, said there was little evidence presented at Wednesday’s hearing to support charges of instigating assault.