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Supporters push Sonando pardon

Supporters of independent radio station owner Mam Sonando urged his early release yesterday, calling on the Ministry of Justice to include him among a list of prisoners to be suggested for royal pardon.

On Friday, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said Sonando, who faces 20 years in prison on insurrection charges, would not be one of 500 prisoners granted release in honour of the late King Father’s cremation.

Huon Phannary, secretary-general of Sonando’s Association of Democrats, said the 71-year-old broadcaster should be among those included in the blanket amnesty.

“Sonando is innocent, because he was accused without evidence ... He should not be a prisoner, because he was wrongfully accused, and now the people who accused him have received 20 hectares of lands each,” she said, referring to reports that the men who testified against Sonando later received payoffs from the state.

Though not to be released, Sonando will honour the mourning period by shaving his head to coincide with the cremation, said Phannary.

Sam Pracheameanith, chief of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet, said they would not budge on the Sonando case.

“His complaint is pending at the Court of Appeal,” he said, explaining that prisoners whose cases were still in the court system were not eligible for pardon.

Asked whether land rights activist Yorm Bopha would be released, Pracheameanith replied in the negative, saying she hadn’t served enough time.

Bopha was sentenced to three years in prison last month for assaulting a motortaxi driver – an accusation rights groups say was trumped up to punish her for her activism.

Pracheameanith also said that the releases for Thai Yellow Shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary, Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, had been approved and sent to the Palace.

On Thursday, Hun Sen requested that the pair, who are facing eight- and six-year prison sentences on espionage charges, be granted amnesty.

“We already sent a document for pardoning Ratree and reducing the duration of Veera’s imprisonment back to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and as far as I know, the king may already signed on document,” said Pracheameanith.

Palace officials contacted yesterday said they were not aware whether King Norodom Sihamoni had yet signed off on the pardons.

To contact the reporters on this story:
May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

Vong Sokheng at sokheng.vong@phnompenhpost.com

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