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Opposition activist and fierce gov’t critic has bail denied

Opposition activist and fierce gov’t critic has bail denied

CNRP information chief Meach Sovannara cites ‘grudge’ by PM in still being held after others walked

The Appeal Court yesterday denied bail to opposition party information chief Meach Sovannara, a fierce critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was jailed on November 11.

Sovannara was arrested and charged with leading an insurrection in connection with a July 15 protest at Freedom Park that turned violent. Since then, more than a dozen Cambodia National Rescue Party members have been arrested in connection with the event, though most have since been released. The cases are widely believed to be politically motivated.

Opposition leaders had called on the government to free Sovannara after he was denied bail by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in mid-November, only to be told that the decision could only be made by the courts and that they would have to wait for the bail appeal decision.

Meach Sovannara in handcuffs at the Appeal Court, where he was yesterday denied bail.
Meach Sovannara in handcuffs at the Appeal Court, where he was yesterday denied bail. Heng Chivoan

A meeting two weeks ago between Hun Sen and CNRP leader Sam Rainsy that saw political agreement reached on a number of other issues appears not to have helped Sovannara.

Ouk Pich Samnang, a rights activist aligned with the opposition who was hit with charges including intentional violence in connection with the same protest, was also denied bail yesterday by the Appeal Court.

Judge Khun Leangmeng could not be reached for comment on why he had denied bail to the two men. Sovannara’s lawyer, Choung Choungy, said the reason given for his client was that he would cause trouble.

“The judge denied Sovannara bail because he believes that if Sovannara is outside prison he will cause problems in society,” he said.

“This reason is not reasonable nor fair for him since there is no evidence or witnesses claiming that Sovannara led or took part in the riot.”

Choungy said that the investigative phase of the case had finished and trial hearings would begin at an unspecified date – another reason why Leangmeng denied bail.

Sovannara will now decide if a final bail appeal should be filed with the Supreme Court, he added.

After the decision, Sovannara accused Hun Sen of taking revenge on him. “This is a grudge from Hun Sen,” he shouted. “Why have the others who were accused of the same acts as me been released on bail? Why is it only me that is left in jail?”

In tears outside the courtroom, Meach Marady, Sovannara’s mother, and Tith Narin, Samnang’s wife, called on CNRP leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha to help get the men out of jail. Neither leader could be reached yesterday.

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