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Verdict awaits in Sam Rainsy appeal

AN official at the Appeal Court said yesterday that a verdict in the case against opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two residents of Svay Rieng province would be handed down as scheduled this afternoon, as lawyers from both sides expressed optimism that they would prevail.

Court prosecutor Nget Sarath confirmed that the verdict would be read out, but declined to speculate on what it might be, saying the outcome was “up to the court’s decision”.

Sam Sokong, a lawyer for the two villagers from Chantrea district, said he expected them to be released, claiming the evidence presented by the government lawyer was weak.

The case against all three accused stems from an October 2009 stunt in Svay Rieng in which Sam Rainsy, currently in self-imposed exile, joined villagers in uprooting border posts he said had been planted in Cambodian territory. Svay Rieng provincial court in January sentenced Sam Rainsy to two years in prison, and the two villagers – Meas Srey and Prum Chea – received one-year sentences.

“I expect that the Appeal Court will decide to release my clients because the evidence is very suspicious,” Sam Sokong said yesterday. “Also, their health is bad, especially Prum Chea.”

Government lawyer Chan Sok Yeang said, however, that he expected the original conviction and sentence to be upheld. Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, Choung Choungy, declined to comment on a possible outcome.

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