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Supreme Court Rules No Bail for 21 Detained Activists

Supporters shout slogans on a blocked main street near the Phnom Penh Municipality Court during their gathering to call for the release of anti-governments protesters who were arrested in a police crackdown, in Phnom Penh, file photo.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court on Friday upheld the detention of 21 labor activists who have sought release on bail as they undergo trials for allegedly inciting violence in demonstrations in January.

Two of 23 activists initially arrested were granted bail, but 21 remain in detention. They are currently being tried by the Phnom Penh court. Friday’s Supreme Court decision was over whether they should be held.

Rights workers say the trials have become politicized as a way to use the pro-opposition activists to bring the opposition to the negotiating table with the ruling party over a political deadlock in place since July 2013 elections.

Kim Ponn, head Supreme Court judge, said the court upheld the detention because a release of the activists would create a threat to public security.

Defense lawyer Sam Sok Kong said he regretted the decision.

Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the case continues to be “political,” and that no court has taken full responsibility for ensuring justice is served.

Outside the court Friday, supporters for the 21 detainees gathered, condemning the court’s decision.

“This is injustice for my son,” said Pan Sina, the mother of jailed activist Sokun Sambath Piseth. “The court is not independent, and it’s being pressured by somebody.”