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SRP asks Amnesty to help activist

SRP asks Amnesty to help activist

SELF-EXILED opposition leader Sam Rainsy wrote to Amnesty International yesterday, following up on an earlier request that the organisation pressure the government to release imprisoned Sam Rainsy Party activist Tuot Saran.

The email, addressed to Janice Beanland, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Southeast Asia, asked whether the organisation “has been able to do anything to help Tuot Saran”, a former commune chief who is serving a three-year prison sentence after being convicted of kidnapping and illegal confinement. He was arrested in March 2008.

In the email, a copy of which was sent to the Post, Sam Rainsy said he first mentioned the request during a meeting with Beanland in London in February. “I asked you whether it would be possible for AI to consider Tuot Saran as a prisoner of conscience,” he said.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that Tuot Saran qualified as a prisoner of conscience because he “has struggled for his national ideals and to serve national interests, and he was convicted unjustly by the court”.

In March 2009, after having already been detained for a year at Kampong Thom provincial prison, Tuot Saran was found guilty of illegally confining a fellow party member who was in the process of joining the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Later that month, local rights group Licadho released a statement calling Tuot Saran’s conviction “baseless and politically motivated”.

In July 2008, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia released a statement saying that it had found “no evidence to support the charges” against Tuot Saran.

Beanland and other Amnesty officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that the case was a Cambodian affair, and that the SRP should not attempt to draw international attention.

“We have seen many issues that the SRP has always taken to foreign [agencies],” he said.

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