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Trial Opens for 23 Labor Activists Accused of Incitement

A woman from Boeung Kak Lake community is stopped by local security guards near a blocked main street near the Phnom Penh Municipality Court during villagers' gathering to call for the release of anti-governments protesters who were arrested in a police crackdown, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, April 25, 2014. Almost two dozen Cambodian factory workers and rights activists have gone on trial in connection with labor protests earlier this year that rocked Prime Minister Hun Sen's government. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Demonstrators and police clashed outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court building on Friday, where 23 labor activists were brought for trial following their arrests in January.

The activists were brought into the court in handcuffs, then split into three rooms, where they faced judges on charges related to incitement of violence in the January protests.

Authorities have detained 21 of the activists since their arrests. Two others, released on bail earlier this year, were also brought to trial on Friday.

Supporters say the 23 activists are being prosecuted as a deterrent against further labor demonstrations.

Some 100 supporters clashed with an equal number of riot police outside the court, where a number of protesters were injured.

Protester Kek Chanreaksmey told VOA Khmer she was kicked and beaten by police, but she stood by the labor activists. “We only want the court to find justice for the 23 union workers,” she said. “We are not against the government.”

Outside the courthouse, Von Pov, one of the accused, addressed reporters.

“We did everything for the Khmer people,” he said. “Von Pov is innocent.”

The hearings are scheduled to resume May 5.