THE Appeal Court upheld a Takeo provincial court verdict yesterday that sentenced an employee of rights group Licadho to two years in prison and changed the original conviction of disinformation to incitement under the new Penal Code.
“The court decided to keep the Takeo provincial court’s verdict but the allegation was changed from disinformation to incitement causing crime,” Pol Sam Oeun, chief of the Appeal Court’s trial council, said in court yesterday.
Leang Sokchouen, 28, was sentenced to two years in prison and fined two million riel (US$487) last August for distributing anti-government leaflets along with three Khmer Krom men in Takeo province.
Thach Vannak, a former monk, and Thach Le, a motorbike taxi driver, were also sentenced to two years prison. A fourth man and alleged mastermind, Thach Khong Phoung, was sentenced to three years jail in absentia.
The leaflets were dropped in three districts in Takeo province in January and April last year and criticised the celebration of the January 7 Vietnamese invasion that toppled the Khmer Rouge regime, stating that it was the day the Kingdom became “abused and occupied” by Vietnam.
“I did not do anything as accused and I will not file a complaint to the Supreme Court because I have no more confidence in the courts,” Leang Sokchouen said outside court.
Licadho condemned the decision in a statement yesterday, and claimed that the change in conviction “violated” an article in the new Penal Code, which came into effect last December.
“This decision blatantly contradicts well-established principles of criminal law in that it convicts Sokchouen under a legal provision that did not exist at the time of the alleged crime,” the statement said.
Licadho senior monitor Am Sam Ath said yesterday that police had mistakenly arrested Leang Sokchouen after confusing him with another man. “It is regrettable that Sokchouen was sentenced for something he did not do,” he said.