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Sedition Charges for Activists ‘Ridiculous,’ Human Rights Watch Says

Opposition party member Meach Sovannara is escorted by police following a rejection by the courts he be released on bail, December 12, 2014.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on the government to drop insurrection charges against 11 opposition activists, including one who holds a US passport.

The group called the charges “ridiculous,” in a statement released the day before the Phnom Penh municipal court is set to hear their case.

“The prosecution of the 11 activists is the latest round of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s campaign to intimidate and imprison opponents of his government,” Brad Adams, Asia director for the group, said in the statement.

Six of 11 activists of the Cambodia National Rescue Party have been released on bail, but five of them remain in detention, including US citizen Meach Sovannara, who runs the Rescue Party’s media center.

Chan Chen, Meach Sovannara’s lawyer, applauded the Human Rights Watch statement, saying his client is not guilty of insurrection.

He said dialogue was now taking place between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the Rescue Party, so “what is not right or is improper should be abandoned.”

Government spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed the Human Rights Watch statement, saying the administration of Hun Sen does not have power over the courts.

“This is a wild organization that does not understand Cambodia, the judicial system or democracy,” he said.