Updated at 10:35am 23 April 2018
The Appeal Court on Monday started a three-day hearing for 11 Cambodia National Rescue Party activists who were convicted by a lower court of leading an alleged “insurrection” during opposition protests at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park following the disputed 2013 elections.
The insurrection convictions are widely considered to be politically motivated after little evidence was provided to support allegations of the crime during the 2015 Phnom Penh Municipal Court trial. The 11 were accused of inciting protesters to violence after they turned on notorious Daun Penh district security guards following months of the guards’ brutal crackdowns on nonviolent protests. The defendants maintain they were actually trying to calm the violence.
Sam Sokong, one of the five lawyers representing the 11 activists, said the court is conducting a trial on the merits of the charges, adding that three of the activists had already been questioned by the court before Khmer New Year.
The three include Meach Sovannara, Khin Chamroeun and Oeur Narith, all of whom were given 20 years for leading the alleged insurrection. The remaining eight activists were given seven years in prison.
Sokong said the proceedings could be rushed because of the limited number of allotted trial days and large number of accused, and also leave little time for the legal team to revise their strategies. “If we think about the accused, it is not good procedurally because the accused need enough time to defend themselves and the lawyers need time to consult with their clients,” he said.
In 2016, the Appeal Court agreed to lawyers’ requests to split the appeal into two cases: one challenging the verdict on purely procedural grounds and the other challenging the substance of the verdict.
The 11 have so far appealed the procedures used in the Phnom Penh court during their 2015 trial, claiming that the judgment was announced in the absence of their lawyers. The Appeal Court last year rejected this motion.
Multiple bail requests have also been rejected by the Appeal Court and Supreme Court.
Updates to follow