The wife of Mam Sonando, imprisoned director of Beehive Radio and director of the Association of Democrats, appealed to the government and the court yesterday with a renewed call for leniency for her husband in the wake of US President Barack Obama’s offer of support last week.
Din Phannara said that she was delighted to hear that Obama raised the conviction against her husband during a bilateral talk on the sidelines of ASEAN with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“What Obama picked up reveals an authenticity that my husband is not involved in the crime for which he was convicted by the court at all, which is why I would like the government and the court to cancel the allegation,” she said.
She added that she is still hopeful and confident that the government as well as the court system will find justice for her husband at last.
“I hope the Appeal Court will take the case of my husband as soon as it has received the legal documents from the municipal court,” she said.
On October 1, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed down a sentence of 20 years and a fine of 10 million riels ($2,500) on insurrection charges to the 71-year-old broadcaster.
The conviction has been widely denounced by rights groups and donors alike who have termed Sonando a political prisoner, and say the allegations were falsified to punish him for politically-sensitive reporting.
This is his third imprisonment.
During the bilateral talks with between Hun Sen and Obama, the premier insisted that there are no political prisoners in Cambodia – a claim he has since reiterated in public speeches.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said that the government is unable to facilitate the release of prisoners who were sentenced by the court because it is beyond the capacity of the government.
On November 16, the Cambodian Center of Human Rights sent an open letter to the president of the Appeal Court, You Bunleng, urging quick action on the pending appeal.
The letter highlights the lack of proof in the case, and says the verdict of the municipal court reflected a lack of independence in the court system of Cambodia.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org