Rights groups have continued condemning the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold a guilty verdict against Boeung Kak land-rights activist Yorm Bopha, saying that “weak” evidence and “inconsistent” testimony failed to link her to an axe and screwdriver attack on two motodops.
The 29-year-old mother will remain in prison, possibly until September next year, after judges rejected her appeal on Friday, but suspended one year of her three-year sentence.
Amnesty International’s Cambodia researcher, Rupert Abbott, who was in court for the case, called for Bopha’s immediate release.
“There was inconsistency in testimony and really weak evidence. To suggest she was involved seems really far-fetched,” he said yesterday.
Abbott said the presumption of innocence had been missing from the trial, suggesting “outside influences are at work again”.
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights said in a statement that it was outraged the “bogus” conviction against Bopha had been upheld.
“The accounts of the alleged victims were often convoluted and did not corroborate,” the statement said.
At the end of the four-hour hearing, judges changed the intentional violence charge against Bopha to a charge of masterminding an assault.
Presiding Judge Taing Sun Lay said Bopha ordered her brothers Yorm Kanlong and Yorm Seth to carry out an attack on motodops Nget Chet, 28, and Vath Thaiseng, 24, last August.
Speaking outside court, Bopha’s husband, Lous Sakhon, vowed to appeal the decision.
“I think the Supreme Court might support all the other courts, but I will still appeal because I want to show the whole world what justice is like in Cambodia,” said the 56-year-old, who was given a suspended prison term last December over the same incident.
During the hearing, Vath Sareth, the father and uncle of the motodops, said he knew “clearly” that Kanlong and Seth had attacked the motodops. But when pressed further he said he had overheard only later that the brothers were the attackers.
“I don’t know who [stabbed my son] because there were many people around and it was confusing,” he said.
In a closing statement, prosecutor Than Seng Narong said Bopha and her husband masterminded the violence but added he did not know why authorities had imprisoned “the woman in this case and not the man”.
Bopha’s lawyer, Ham Sunrith, said witnesses and evidence presented had failed to prove Bopha was guilty.
When the motodops’ lawyer, Neang Hay, disagreed, the usually calm Bopha began shouting, interrupting to demand he solemnly swear the evidence he had presented was true.
Boeung Kak housing-rights activist Tep Vanny said yesterday that her community would continue protests and take straw effigies of “corrupt officials” to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house today, urging his intervention.