The Appeal Court on Tuesday heard the appeal of Kong Mas, the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) activist in Svay Rieng province against a lower court conviction which sentenced him to one-and-a-half years imprisonment for incitement to bring chaos between April and October 2018.
Trial chamber president Judge Nhoung Thol read the facts before prosecutor Pen Sarath and Mas’ lawyer Sam Sokong, saying that the 32-year-old had used and created five Facebook accounts and used them to criticise the heads of government.
The judge read out the content of Mas’ Facebook posts, which included “Citizens, please rise up to topple the government. We all bring down this regime” and “It is of Hun Sen who deprived citizens of democracy. It is the regime of Hun Sen that kills forests.”
The court also heard that after he was detained, the police found 100,000 leaflets in the province which also aimed to incite chaos.
The judge told the accused in the courtroom that after he was arrested on January 16, last year, the police found that he had associated with former Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) “acting president” Sam Rainsy and former party lawmakers Ho Vann and Kak Kumphea.
He said that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had handed down the verdict on Mas on October 18, last year and sentenced him to one-and-a-half years in prison for insulting and incitement to bring chaos under Articles 495 and 502 of the Criminal Code.
Sam Rainsy, Ho Vann and Kak Kumphea, were sentenced to a year and eight months in prison each for attempting to incite chaos under Articles of 208, 495 and 452 of the Criminal Code.
Mas told the judge on Tuesday that he had filed his appeal against the lower court’s ruling as he was not satisfied with the sentence.
He said he had just expressed his views as a citizen. He said the Facebook posts were aimed to constructively criticise the government, and expressing them was his democratic right.
“In 2013, I joined the CNRP and criticised the government because I was in the opposition party. I am not happy that my party was dissolved. I would like the court to implement recommendations by Samdech Hun Sen in Kampot province. I ask the court, please sympathise and release me,” he said.
Sam Sokong concluded that all his client was guilty of was expressing his views, which was his right as a citizen. He wrote the Facebook posts to ask for people to make a change through the election.
His client had no intention to stage a colour revolution or topple the government either, he said. “I would like the court to reject the lower court’s ruling and release my client,” he said.
Sarath concluded that the accused had exercised his right as a citizen to express the views, but at the expense of others. He said the posts made Facebook users confused at the time.
“Based on the confession and the consistency of the exhibits, I urge the court to uphold the verdict,” he said.
Following the hearing, Judge Thol said the verdict will be announced on March 23.