Despite the absence of the defendants and their lawyers, the Appeal Court yesterday heard the case of 13 demonstrators convicted over a violent minimum wage protest on the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard in January 2014, where security forces allegedly shot to death at least four people and wounded many others.
Appeal Court judge Chay Chandaravan confirmed the hearing went ahead, though the group, who were released from custody in May 2014, after being handed suspended sentences for intentional violence, were not in attendance.
Instead, police and military officers present at the rally were given the chance to testify against the men, according to Licadho’s Am Sam Ath, who was in the court room.
“Only police and military police testified, putting the blame and responsibility on the workers,” Sam Ath said, adding that the prosecutor also pushed for the conviction to be upheld.
Four people were killed when security forces allegedly opened fire at the rally. One man is missing and presumed dead.
However, Sam Ath said officers from both the police and military yesterday denied their men fired at protesters, despite numerous witnesses who saw armed security forces discharge live ammunition into the crowd.
“Police said they only used shields, truncheons and tear gas and did not kill any workers,” he said.
Contacted yesterday, the group’s lawyer, Ham Sunrith, said he was unable to inform his clients of the hearing in time because they had changed residences.
A verdict is due on February 4.