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Meach Sovannara denied bail, again

Despite pledging to deposit $2,500 and surrender his passport, Cambodian-American opposition official Meach Sovannara was yesterday denied bail for a fourth time, and for the second time at the Appeal Court.

After the unsuccessful hearing, Sovannara said that due to the political nature of the case, he would only be released if opposition leader Sam Rainsy can convince Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party information head has been detained since November 11 in connection with a July protest at Freedom Park that saw opposition protesters clash with district security guards.

He was charged with leading an insurrection, a crime which carries a possible jail term of up to 30 years. He was last denied bail at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on December 25.

In Cambodian courts, it is not unusual for defendants to file multiple requests for bail.

Four other CNRP supporters and activists remain imprisoned over the same protest. Ouk Pich Samnang and Tep Narin were also denied bail again yesterday, while Sum Puthy and Ke Khim did not file their appeals on time.

Family and supporters at court yesterday, including Sovannara’s 69-year-old widowed mother, were optimistic that the appeal would be successful.

In a bid to finally secure his release, Sovannara tried to show judge Plang Samnang he had no reason to flee.

“I want to be released on bail to take care of my mother because she is elderly. If the court allows me on bail, I will respect what the court says,” he said.

“I will not escape. I will deposit my passport. I will deposit 10 million riel.”

He added that he would stay away from any political or protest activities if released.

After listening to his plea, judge Samnang said that if there was no good reason to detain Sovannara, he would be released on bail. Soon after, he announced his decision but did not explain why he supported the lower court’s bail rejection.

After the hearing, rights activists again speculated that the five opposition members were being held to give the ruling CPP leverage over the CNRP at ongoing election reform talks, a charge the government has denied.

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