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Appeals Hearing Opens for Opposition Activists

Meach Sovannara, a jailed CNRP's head of Information Department escorted by police in front of the Court of Appeals on Tuesday, August 23, 2016. (Photo: Leng Len/VOA Khmer)

The Appeals Court on Tuesday began a hearing into the conviction of Meach Sovannara, an opposition member, and 11 opposition activists who were jailed over an anti-government protest in 2014.

They were sentenced to between seven and 20 years for “incitement”.

Sovannara shouted to the court on Tuesday that the hearing was nothing more than political theater and the outcome had already been decided.

“We have no hope because yesterday Mr. Hun Sen already sent a political message to threaten the court at the Peace Palace. Therefore, the court is a political device,” he said, referring to a speech given by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday in which he said that the courts should not release people who had been convicted.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at local rights group Licadho, said Hun Sen's message was clearly intended to sway the judge's decision.

“If the decisions depended on their discretion and consciousness and objectivity… facts and their professionalism and ethics, I hoped that the annulment of the case could happen and it can be an example for the future. But when there is political pressure or political intervention, I have no faith in the system,” he said.