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Lawyer, Activists Turn to UN Rights Envoy to Secure Release of Jailed Activist


UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith speaks during a press conference at her main office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.

U.N. Rights envoy Rhona Smith expressed her support for Vanny’s cause, adding that the U.N. had written several letters to the government and was awaiting a response.

The lawyer representing jailed anti-eviction activist Tep Vanny and her supporters have met with U.N. Rights envoy Rhona Smith and lobbied for her to secure her release.

Vanny was jailed one year ago for “intentional violence” during a demonstration, but rights groups claim no evidence was presented in court suggesting she was guilty.

Sam Sokunthea, Vanny’s lawyer, said during the rare meeting on Tuesday the group told Smith Vanny was innocent. “She didn’t commit any crime, so I have hope in you,” Sokunthea told Smith.

Smith was in Cambodia on a 10-day fact-finding trip. She met Vanny’s daughter, Ou Kongpanha, during the ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of Vanny’s imprisonment.

Smith expressed her support for Vanny’s cause, adding that the U.N. had written several letters to the government and was awaiting a response.

The Court of Appeals recently upheld Vanny’s 30-month sentence.

Am Sam Ath, a monitoring manager for local rights group Licadho, said Smith’s influence was limited but could put pressure on the courts to reconsider their decision.

Chin Malin, a justice spokesman, could not be reached for comment.

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