WASHINGTON DC - The Appeals Court will hold a hearing on Friday to determine whether jailed radio broadcaster Mam Sonando should be released on bail.
Mam Sonando is currently serving a 20-year sentence handed down from a lower court, after his arrest in July on charges he helped foment a secessionist plot in Kratie province.
He was visited in jail this week by the UN’s special human rights envoy Surya Subedi, according to his supporters.
Huon Pannary, deputy secretary-general of the Association of Democrats, a group led by Mam Sonando, told VOA Khmer she hopes the court will release him.
Meanwhile, the courts have also re-summoned a rights activist to appear for questioning over allegedly aiding the escape of men accused of plotting against the government.
Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, has been summoned to appear Dec. 24. He is accused of abetting the escape of several men, including the alleged ringleader of the plot, Bun Rotha, who is no longer in the country.
Rights workers say that Bun Rotha and Mam Sonando have been accused of an anti-government plot on weak evidence, following public criticism of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The secessionist accusations came following a violent protest by villagers in a Kratie province land protest earlier this year. Government security forces swept into the village, in the province’s Chlong district, sealing off access to the media. A 14-year-old girl was inadvertently shot dead in the sweep, which netted a handful of alleged plotters.
The government says Chan Soveth helped others escape.
However, Phil Robertson, deputy director for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said Chan Soveth is being persecuted as “a scapegoat” and that the charges of secession and arrests related to it are in fact a type of intimidation.
“They are looking to intimidate civil society, they are pursuing politically motivated charges against him, and this sort of intimidation should stop,” Robertson said.
Am Sam Ath, chief investigator for the rights group Licadho, said Chan Soveth’s work has always conformed with the law and the principles of human rights.
“This summons for the second time of Chan Soveth, in my understanding, will affect the work of human rights,” he said. He called the summons “a threat to and intimidation of the work of human rights organizations.”
Mam Sonando’s case has come under heavy scrutiny from local and international groups. In a short meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen in November, US President Barack Obama said Mam Sonando’s detention was a specific concern of the US.
Chan Soveth told VOA Khmer he plans to obey the summons. He missed the first summons because he was on a three-month visit to Sweden, he said. But he said has been presented no evidence against him and was not questioned before his case was moved through the courts.
“Each citizen must fulfill his obligations,” he said. “And especially if I’m a charged person, I have to appear and testify.”
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