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Supporters unable to visit publisher jailed for disinformation

Supporters unable to visit publisher jailed for disinformation

Rights groups and opposition lawmakers have asked to meet with imprisonedHang Chakra, but only his lawyer has been allowed to see him.

DESPITE a steady stream of visitation requests, Prey Sar prison officials continued to prevent jailed publisher Hang Chakra from meeting with Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers, relatives and other supporters early this week, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Chuong Chou Ngy, who has met twice with his client, said he and one of Hang Chakra's two daughters had been the only people allowed to do so.

In a June 26 hearing, Judge Din Sivuthy found Hang Chakra, the 55-year-old editor and publisher of the Khmer Machas Srok News, guilty of disinformation under the UNTAC Criminal Code in connection with a series of articles he published in April and May accusing officials working under Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption. The court then sentenced him to one year in prison and fined him 9 million riels (US$2,167).

For me it is quite easy to meet him, but for [others] it has been impossible.

"For me it is quite easy to meet him, but for his relatives, local NGOs and lawmakers it has been impossible," Chuong Chou Ngy said, adding that he did not know why the requests had not been approved.
Pen Samitthy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ), said Tuesday that his organisation sent a letter last week to the Interior Ministry's prisons department requesting a meeting with Hang Chakra.

He described the visitation request as "normal" and said he did not know why the department had yet to respond.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said Tuesday that his organisation had submitted a visitation request last Monday at the behest of Hang Chakra's family members, who have said that Hang Chakra suffers from multiple illnesses.

He said Licadho frequently submits such requests, adding that the response time varies arbitrarily and can take as long as one month.

Sam Ny, the prison department's deputy director of operations, said he had not seen a visitation request from CCJ.

"I was just informed this morning that the letter was sent straight to the director of the prisons department," he said.

He said he received Licadho's letter last week and signed it on Tuesday before sending it to the director of the department. He said he believed it would be sent back to him on Wednesday, at which point he would send it to Licadho.

No official verdict
Also Tuesday, Chuong Chou Ngy said he had not yet received a copy of the official verdict or the arrest warrant from the Municipal Court, adding that it was standard practice for the court to provide copies of those documents.

Judge Din Sivuthy said Tuesday that the conviction letter and warrant had been sent to the Court of Appeal.

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