Yorm Bopha cries after being convicted at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court,
Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
A day after Phnom Penh Municipal Court released Borei Keila grandmother Tim Sakmony, her fellow activist Yorm Bopha was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of intentional violence, charges rights groups have called trumped up and aimed at halting her activism.
Bopha’s husband, Lous Sakhon, received the same sentence, though it was immediately suspended, while her brothers Yorm Kanlong and Yorm Sith were sentenced to three years in absentia and warrants issued for their arrest.
All four stand charged with allegedly attacking motodops Nget Chet and Vath Thaiseng with an axe in Boeung Kak’s Village 22 on August 7.
The accusations have been roundly derided by rights groups, who have labeled both Bopha and Sakmony prisoners of conscience and called for large-scale protests during the two days of trial.
Citing medical and witness testimony, presiding Judge Sus Samarth said there was no doubt “that all of them committed the crime as accused against the victim.”
Led away in handcuffs, a serene Bopha insisted she remained confident she would be released in the end.
“I believe that justice will come to me later. I’m not hopeless for justice, because I did not commit a crime,” she told reporters.
Outside the court this morning, more than 200 demonstrators massed against barriers, waiting to hear the verdict.
As word of it passed through the crowd, the protesters grew agitated, pushing at the some 100 police and military police sent to keep order, and grabbing for their riot shields.
On the opposite side, members of the motodop association cheered the verdict.
“I am very happy that the court provided justice for my family,” said Vath Sarath, the father of Thaiseng, before calling on the police to arrest the two suspects at-large.
But for rights monitors, justice appeared to play little role in the case.
“I watched this case since yesterday, and the victim and the witness answers in the hearing were different. The information they gave was all ordered to be said by others. It wasn’t based on the facts,” said Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Ou Virak.
“This case has been made up by others.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org