The Appeals Court on Tuesday reversed a decision of the Battambang Provincial Court against seven fishermen of Preak Luong commune in Battambang’s Ek Phnom district.
The case, which goes back more than two years and was tried twice in Battambang, involved fishing gear the fishermen were charged with stealing and which they claimed they confiscated because it was used to fish illegally in a lake belonging to the area’s villagers.
The Appeals Court imposed on six of the fishermen a five-year probation period and a total fine of about $110.50, and dropped charges against a seventh man.
In the first trial, which the fishermen did not attend, the Battambang court sentenced them to three years in jail and a fine of about $10,000 on July 23, 2003. In the retrial on Sept 4, 2003, the sentence was reduced to one year in jail and a fine of about $6,250.
San Sony, an attorney with Legal Aid of Cambodia who represents the fishermen, said the sentences were unfair punishments for her clients, who will appeal the Appeals Court’s decision to the Supreme Court.
One of the fishermen, Hong Hak, 41, said he is afraid the latest court decision will discourage villagers from taking action against illegal fishing.