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Youth Activist Kong Raiya’s Bail Decision Delayed

Youth activist Kong Raiya waves his hand as a van carries him along with other prisoners from Prey Sar prison to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in Phnom Penh, on Nov. 26, 2019. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

Youth activist Kong Raiya was present in a Phnom Penh court on Tuesday for a bail hearing, with the investigating judge postponing the decision to later this week.

Kong Raiya was arrested in July and a day before a memorial service for slain political commentator Kem Ley, for the alleged crime of selling shirts with Ley’s image and quotes. He has been charged with “incitement to commit felony.” Sok Sreynich, Raiya’s wife, said the judge did not provide any reason for delaying the decision.

“I have requested for him to leave on bail for three times already, but the courts keep delaying the ruling repeatedly,” she said. “So, this affects my mind negatively.”

While Raiya remains in prison, Suong Neak Poan was released on bail recently after he was arrested the day of the Kem Ley memorial for holding a sign that called on the government to refrain from extrajudicial killings.

The youth activist’s bail hearing also comes as the government has released at least 70 opposition-aligned people on bail for allegedly aiding in a coup attempt by Sam Rainsy.

Y Rin, spokesman for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, declined to comment.

Sam Sokong, Kong Raiya’s lawyer, said the court should take into consideration his client’s health concerns and that he is the sole earning member of his family.

“I think that it is not necessary to imprison Kong Raiya at this stage because the court has closed the investigation,” he said.

Senior rights staffer at Adhoc, Soeung Sen Karuna, said the court’s practice of routinely delaying judgments and proceedings were only worsening its diminished reputation with Cambodians.

“If courts announce the verdict quickly after the hearings, it will show clearly the [apolitical] stance and professionalism of the courts,” he said.

In 2016, Kong Raiya was sentenced to eighteen months in prison on the same charge. His conviction came after he posted a message on his Facebook account, calling for the public to stage a color revolution with him.