On the eve of a court ruling, rights groups yesterday called on the court to drop “politically motivated” charges against men accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
Today’s sentence could mean up to 10 years’ imprisonment for 13 Khmer and Khmer Krom men who allegedly conspired to topple the Cambodian government while forming an armed wing of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), a Denmark-based organisation the Kingdom considers a terrorist network.
Advocates of the accused maintain the government has no credible evidence against the defendants, seven of whom claim police coerced or tortured confessions out of them, while the other six remain at large.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodia government have a long history of creating make-believe cases against minor exile groups that they then use as a cudgel to smear the political opposition,” said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia deputy director. “This is yet another politically motivated spectacle in Cambodia’s kangaroo courts where the rights of the accused … go out the window.”
Before last year’s election, the government tried to discredit the opposition by linking it to armed rebels from the KNLF, according to the Minority Rights Organization.
But according to Sam Serey, KNLF president and one of the accused, the group is nonviolent, and “has been peacefully struggling for justice, peace, freedom and democracy”.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan and Ministry of Interior officials were unable to specify yesterday why the KNLF is considered illegal.
“I do not remember the evidence, but the courts know, they have the proof,” Kirth Chantharith, National Police spokesman, said.
Many of the accused, three of whom were monks at the time of their arrest in March last year, deny any involvement in the KNLF, which filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court against Hun Sen.
“A political movement criticised the government, and so the government feels threatened … but if the court is fair, they will let all [the defendants] out of jail,” defence lawyer Sam Sokong said.