The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the conviction of three environmental activists from the group Mother Nature for allegedly threatening to burn sand-dredging equipment, citing a lack of evidence to back up their testimony that they made no such threats.
The three men - Sun Mala, Try Sovikea and Sim Somnang - were found guilty in July and let off on time served, after spending more than 10 months in prison. They were also ordered to pay $25,000 in compensation for the alleged threats.
Their appeal hearing took place late last month, with neither the defendants who fled the country ahead of the appeal – nor their lawyers – present. Written requests to call more witnesses were rejected out of hand, with presiding judge Sin Visal saying sufficient witnesses were heard in the initial trial.
Visal yesterday said that the activists had no evidence to prove that they didn’t threaten the dredgers, and maintained that there was video evidence proving their guilt. A monitor at the trio’s initial trial, however, said that videos presented in court showed nothing constituting a threat.
“What they have done was a crime,” Visal said. “The decision of the Koh Kong Provincial Court is justifiable.”
Defendant Sun Mala yesterday maintained his innocence, calling the Appeal Court’s decision unjust. He added that the three would consider filing a Supreme Court appeal.
“However, the Appeal Court’s decision is not bringing us back to jail, [which] is a positive sign for us to continue our work as before,” he added.