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‘Shoe-thrower’ bids for reduced sentence

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Sam Sokha is escorted into the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Kim Sarom

‘Shoe-thrower’ bids for reduced sentence

Sam Sokha who threw a shoe at a Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) banner in Ung village in Prey Nop district’s Ream commune, in Preah Sihanouk province and posted a message from Thailand insulting the Cambodian government, asked the Supreme Court to reduce her sentence at a hearing on Wednesday.

Presiding Judge Soeng Panhavuth read a court note to 38-year-old Sokha, who was a garment worker in Kampong Speu province, saying that in 2017 she threw a shoe at a CPP street banner in the village.

Police officials searched for her under a warrant issued by the Kampong Speu provincial court, but she fled to Thailand, where she posted a message on Facebook, criticising the government. She was arrested by Thai authorities and repatriated to Cambodia the same year.

She said at the hearing on Wednesday that the Kampong Speu provincial court held a trial on January 19, 2017, after she was charged with two cases of “insulting and inciting to discriminate” under articles 494, 496 and 502 of the Criminal Code.

Sokha was subsequently pronounced guilty and sentenced to four years in jail and fined 10 million riel ($2,500).

She filed a complaint to the Appeal Court against the verdict, but the lower court’s decision was upheld.

“I threw a shoe at a CPP street banner because at the time, my father [had just] died and I lost my job. I asked the Supreme Court to reduce my prison term.

“I admitted that I am guilty, but could not afford to pay 10 million riel compensation,” she said, but did not specify how many years of her sentence she wanted reduced.

Prosecutor Nov Mony Choth said that Sokha only appealed to have the sentence for insulting to be reduced. “So the court will consider her request according to the law,” he said.

Defence lawyer Lor Chunthy said his client had admitted her guilt. She claimed that while Sokha was in Thailand, someone created a Facebook account for her to use.

This, Chunthy said, led to her insulting the government since she was newly introduced to the technology and was unaware of the law. He said Sokha sent a letter to the government leaders to seek a pardon from prison. “I ask the court to reduce her sentence,” he said.

Judge Panhavuth will announce his verdict next Wednesday.

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