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RT Fixer Appeals “Unjust” Two-Year Prison Sentence

Labor activist Rath Rott Mony arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for trial over his role in the making of a documentary about sex-trafficking, that the government said contained fake news, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 30, 2019.

Rath Rott Mony was sentenced on a charge of “incitement to discriminate” in relation to the broadcast of a documentary film titled “My Mother Sold Me.”

Rath Rott Mony, a news fixer for Russian state-owned media network RT (formerly Russia Today) lodged an appeal against last week’s verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court that sentenced him to two years imprisonment, according to lawyers and human rights officers.

Rath Rott Mony, 47, was sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on a charge of “incitement to discriminate” in relation to the broadcast of a documentary film titled “My Mother Sold Me,” which was produced by RT. He was ordered to pay compensation amounting to more than $16,000 to the two civil plaintiffs, who are the actors in the controversial documentary.

Som Titseyha, one of the two lawyers representing Rath Rott Mony, told VOA Khmer on Thursday that his client doesn’t deserve to get an unjust verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

“We lodged the appeal against the decision made by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court because my client is dissatisfied by the ruling. He thinks the decision of the Phnom Penh Municipal seems to be very serious for him and it seems unfair for him because he didn’t commit the crimes he is charged with,” he said.

The lawyer added that he appealed against the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday, expecting that the appeals court would confer justice to his client, whom he claimed only worked as an “interpreter” for RT. He said RT had confirmed to the Cambodian ambassador to Russia that Rath Rott Mony was a translator.

Prior to the conviction of Ratt Rott Mony, Ekaterina Yakovleva, head of RT documentary department, wrote a letter to inform Ker Vicheth, Cambodian ambassador to Moscow, that Mony is an interpreter and a liaison for RT’s documentary crew.

Yi Soksan, senior monitoring officer of local rights association (Adhoc), said that the Appeals Court should consider dropping charges against Mony because he worked only as a translator for RT.

“There should not be such a conviction against him because he is only the interpreter. It’s an injustice for him and I think that the appeals court would reconsider his conviction,” he said.

Touch Tharith, a spokesman for the appeals court, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

The conviction of Rath Rott Mony drew a slew of criticism from international rights groups who consider Mony only an interpreter for RT. They say that he should not be arrested and should be released without conditions.

The London-based Amnesty International also called on the Cambodian courts to drop the charge against him.

Moreover, the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh last Friday expressed deep concerns about the sentencing of Cambodian labor activist Rath Rott Mony to two years in jail for his assistance in the production of a documentary about sex trafficking.

“The United States supports freedom of expression worldwide as a key component of democratic governance. We call upon the Government of Cambodia to allow all individuals to freely exercise this right, which is protected under international law and the Cambodian constitution, without the threat of reprisal,” the embassy wrote in an email.

The embassy added that freedom of expression is also essential to documenting and raising awareness of Cambodia’s human trafficking problem.