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Families call for release of prisoners

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Seven CNRP activists are transported to the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Families call for release of prisoners

Following the release of 19 political prisoners in Venezuela, families and supporters of activists who have been jailed in the Kingdom have called on the government to free them too.

On Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro granted conditional freedom to 39 political prisoners, with 19 already walking free, according to a Bloomberg report. The group included opposition lawmakers and activists.

Now, having seen the releases in Venezuela, families of political prisoners in Cambodia have expressed hope that their family members who are in jail will soon be released as well.

An Sophea, the wife of Roeun Chetra, who was sentenced to seven years in prison on a charge of insurrection related to a violent 2014 anti-government protest at Freedom Park, said she will appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihamoni to release her husband.

“I don’t know who to ask for help. If they allow us to meet [the King and prime minister] I will make my request to him, Samdech Techo [Prime Minister Hun Sen] and the King.

“I want my husband’s sentence to be reduced or he be pardoned . . . the court sentenced him to seven years.

“My husband has been dealt an injustice, he did not commit a sin or kill anyone,” she said, holding back tears.

Chi Sophal, the father of An Batham, a Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) youth member who was sentenced to seven years in prison under similar circumstances as Chetra, also wants his son released like those in Venezuela.

“We also want a release through a pardon,” Sophal said.

Sem Van, the wife of another CNRP youth member who was sentenced to seven years in jail for participating in the Freedom Park protest, said she had been facing difficulties since her husband’s arrest.

“We want him to be released. But I don’t know what to do as I have little education. The court accused him of participating in insurrection but my husband did not do anything.

“There was no evidence of wrongdoing, but the court still charged him,” she said.

Chin Malin, the spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said the situation in Venezuela is very different from that in Cambodia.

“Cambodia doesn’t have a political crisis, and there are neither political crimes nor political prisoners.

“There are only politicians who violated criminal law in Cambodia. So, a request to release political prisoners is impossible as we have no political prisoners here,” Malin stressed.

He said a reduction in sentence or granting pardons only occurred during certain national festivals or in special circumstances, and that too upon the prime minister’s request to the King.

Mu Sochua, the former CNRP deputy president, however, urged a release of all political prisoners. “For national reconciliation, all political prisoners should be released,” she said on Monday.

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