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Holiday clemency requested for 900 prisoners

The names of more than 900 prisoners have been put forward to receive pardons and sentence reductions during next month’s Khmer New Year festivities, officials said yesterday.

The inmates were selected by the Ministry of Interior and their cases are now being assessed by the Ministry of Justice to determine whether they are eligible for clemency, which is offered annually to selected prisoners.

However, General Be Tea Leng, operation department director of the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons, said many of the prisoners recommended by the ministry will be rejected.

“We have requested more than 900 inmates for reduced [sentences] and pardons. That is the request, but the Ministry of Justice will give less,” he said.

Talks were held yesterday between officials from both ministries to discuss the pardons.

Ahead of the meeting, presided over by Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana, Soch Sophanna, deputy general prosecutor of the ministry’s Criminal Department, told reporters that the inmates hail from 17 provinces across the country.

A number of requirements needed to be met before clemency can be offered, he said.

“Those who have carried out two-thirds of their sentence [will be eligible] for pardons, and [those who have completed] one-third, for sentence reduction,” Sophanna explained, adding that selected prisoners also must have exhibited good behaviour behind bars.

However, rights groups have said corruption routinely plays a significant role in determining who benefits from the pardons

Yearly pardons and sentence reductions take place every year during Khmer New Year, Phchum Ben and Water Festival.

Last year, 70 were released during Khmer New Year and hundreds more had their sentences reduced by up to a year.

In a more unusual move, earlier this month, 22 incarcerated women who were pregnant or had their children with them in prison were released on International Women’s Day.

More are expected to be released by Khmer New year, with vows to speed up the trials of those held in pretrial detention.



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