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Cambodian Court Upholds Jail Term for Land Rights Activist


Land rights activists and villagers from Boeng Kak rallied before the Appeal Court demanding the release of Tep Vanny, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 8, 2017. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

The protest Tep Vanny helped lead was held to demand compensation for victims of forced eviction, but it turned violent when guards refused to allow protesters to deliver a petition.

A Cambodian court this week upheld a lengthy prison term against one of the country’s top land rights activists, Tep Vanny, who was sentenced for inciting violence at a protest she led in 2013 to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Phnom Penh.

Vanny was convicted in late February of aggravated intentional violence for taking part in the protest in which several security force personnel were injured.

The Appeals Court on Tuesday determined that her trial had followed legal procedures.

The protest she helped lead was held to demand compensation for victims of forced eviction, but it turned violent when guards refused to allow protesters to deliver a petition.

But protesters blame the security forces for starting the violence with the female protesters and claim the authorities produced no evidence at trial to implicate Vanny, who is also facing another case filed in August 2016 for allegedly insulting public officials.

Supporters of Vanny gathered at the court on Tuesday, holding a ceremony to curse the judges and national leaders behind her conviction.

Tearful supporters called on the international community to apply pressure on Hun Sen’s government to release Vanny.

“Tep Vanny didn’t do anything wrong... why did the court collude with corrupt people to treat us badly?” asked Song Sreyleap, a fellow activist.

Touch Tharith, a court spokesman, said the charges against Vanny could not be dismissed as an investigation into the incident was ongoing and her release would “affect the investigation procedures of the court”.

Chin Malin, a justice spokesman, said Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana was due to meet Rhona Smith, the UN’s human rights envoy, on Thursday, but said he doubted whether Smith would advocate for Vanny’s release. “Rhona Smith is a legal specialist, who clearly understands about democratic principles and Cambodia’s constitutional law,” he said.

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