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Court Wraps Up Hearing in Case Against Beehive Radio Owner

  • Heng Reaksmey
  • VOA Khmer

A Cambodian supporter holds a banner reading: "The court system must be respected by the public not for..." as she sits with other supporters of Mam Sonando, one of Cambodia’s most prominent human rights defenders, in front of Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. Some 300 supporters gathered for prayer for local radio station owner Sonando, who has been held in pre-trial detention for almost two months for insurrection charge, during his court appearance.

Mam Sonando argued that had he planned to topple the government as accused, he would not have returned from the US.

PHNOM PENH - Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday finished a week of hearings in the secessionist trial of Beehive Radio operator Mam Sonando and is expected to issue a verdict Oct. 1.

Nine others were put on trial alongside Mam Sonando this week, with another four tried in absentia, for allegedly leading a secessionist plot against the government.

The court says that plot led to a violent clash between villagers and security forces in Kratie province in May.

That clash opened a governmental crackdown on what it said was a separatist movement, leading to the arrest of Mam Sonando and others, as well as a subpoena for Chan Saveth, a prominent rights worker, for assisting the alleged plotters.

The last day of the trial included closing remarks of both the prosecution and defense who argued over a crossbow and air gun prosecutors displayed as evidence of a separatist agenda. Defense also argued against including evidence that Mam Sonando was invited to discussions in the US with an anti-government group.

Mam Sonando argued that had he planned to topple the government as accused, he would not have returned from the US.

Meanwhile, demonstrators outside the court continued to call for Mam Sonando’s release. Supporters who belong to his Association of Democrats said they were involved in a democracy group, not a separatist movement.

“No, no secession,” said Thlong Pal, a demonstrator outside the court. “He demanded we abide by the law.”

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, who attended the proceedings and gave details to the media, said neither witnesses nor evidence was presented linking Mam Sonando to the Kratie incident.

“I hope that the court’s decision is based on the evidence and facts,” he said. “Not on politics.