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Calls for activists’ release

Meach Sovannara
Meach Sovannara, a jailed Cambodia National Rescue party official, at a protest that turned violent in July. Heng Chivoan

Calls for activists’ release

Rights groups have called for authorities to throw out insurrection charges against 11 opposition officials and activists due in court on Thursday.

In a statement yesterday, Human Rights Watch said it has video evidence proving the accused were not perpetrators of the Freedom Park violence from which the charges stem.

“The Cambodian government has attempted to blame the July 15 violence entirely on the CNRP [Cambodia National Rescue Party],” the statement says. “The video suggests that protesters physically attacked security forces as a spontaneous reaction to security forces’ attacks and contrary to pleas for non-violence from CNRP leaders on the scene.”

Five of the 11 summonsed to court have been in pre-trial detention at the capital’s Prey Sar prison. If found guilty of leading an insurrection, the accused face 30 years in prison.

HRW alleges that a “senior Cambodian security force officer” told the NGO shortly after the July 15 clash that the government had no evidence that the opposition planned or initiated the violence.

Phelim Kine, a deputy Asia director at HRW said the legal action against the 11 was a “breathtakingly cynical act of political vindictiveness against the already besieged Cambodian opposition”.

“Cambodia’s foreign donors should press the government to immediately drop the spurious charges against the activists,” he said.

Rights group Licadho on Monday condemned the “politically motivated allegations” against the 11 summonsed.

“The charges are absurd. Let’s not forget that the violence . . . came after a year of systematic brutality by security forces to break up peaceful protests,” said Licadho director Naly Pilorge. “And yet it is solely members of the political opposition who are potentially facing decades in prison on no grounds whatsoever.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the opposition would “wait and see” what happened.

“The court is independent . . . so they should be released, because they have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was not aware of planned security measures outside the court where protesters often congregate for high-profile trials.

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