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Land activist to be released

Land activist to be released

Outspoken land activist Kuch Veng will regain his freedom in 15 days after the Pursat provincial court yesterday handed down a guilty verdict with a one-year sentence, then suspended nearly three quarters of that term.

Veng has been in prison since May 19 on charges of fraud that rights groups and supporters believe to be politically motivated and tied to his activism against developer Pheapimex.

Long Lun, Veng’s lawyer, said the court had insufficient evidence against his client and he was considering launching an appeal.

Veng stands accused of having defrauded a villager of $4,500 in 2010.

His arrest came following a series of protests against Pheapimex, which is owned by Choeung Sopheap, wife of CPP senator Lao Meng Khin.

Thousands in Pursat and Kampong Chhnang have been affected by the company’s vast economic land concessions, and many have accused it of further land grabbing. Veng’s verdict was originally set to be handed down last month, but the judge postponed it after hundreds of villagers camped outside the court in support of the activist.

Only 30 appeared yesterday in the hopes of forestalling further delay, a community representative said.

Lon Serey, a community representative from Krakor district who attended the hearing and verdict decision, said the judge appeared to disregard substantial evidence in Veng’s favour.

“This decision is very unfair,” Serey said.

Rights group Adhoc offered a similar conclusion, saying there had been insufficient proof of Veng’s guilt.

“If we listen to the hearing, the judge did not have evidence to incriminate,” Pursat provincial coordinator Phuong Sothea said.

Presiding judge Mao Sina could not be reached for comment.

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