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Sovannara pushes for appeal case inclusion

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CNRP activists Ouk Pich Samnang (left) and Meach Sovannara (right) are escorted into the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh yesterday. Pha Lina

Sovannara pushes for appeal case inclusion

Lawyers for opposition official Meach Sovannara and four other activists yesterday lobbied the Supreme Court to overturn an Appeal Court decision that effectively excluded them, allegedly without reason, from their own appeal of a 2015 “insurrection” conviction.

In July of 2015, 11 opposition activists, including Sovannara, were sentenced to between seven and 20 years on charges stemming from an opposition rally in which protesters violently turned on Daun Penh district security guards, who for months had been brutally dispersing peaceful rallies.

The 11 appealed the verdict on the grounds that their lawyers were absent for closing arguments – a breach of legal procedure – but the Appeal Court last year, without issuing any legal rationale, excluded Sovannara and four other defendants from the appeal, said their attorney, Choung Choungy.

Asked in court yesterday to explain why he and the others should be allowed to rejoin the appeal of his six co-defendants, Sovannara said simply that the lower court had violated established procedure and – despite the fact that his arrest coincided with a time of tense political negotiations – the mistake must still be rectified.

“I know my case is politically motivated, and needs to be solved by politicians but please decide based on rule of law; do not let judicial power come under political pressure,” he said.

No arguments for the legality of the Appeal Court ruling were made yesterday. A verdict is due on January 25.

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