About 100 Boeng Kak activists marched around Phnom Penh’s Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon calling for the release from prison of fellow activist Yorm Bopha ahead of her final appeal hearing on Friday.
Led by community representative Tep Vanny, the supporters prayed to their ancestors in a Buddhist ceremony, calling on them to influence the outcome of the incitement case. Yorm Bopha is serving a three-year sentence, with one year suspended, for allegedly ordering an assault on two motorcycle taxi drivers last year.
“Justice needs to be done for Yorm Bopha, because she did nothing wrong,” Ms. Vanny said.
“We are holding this ceremony to lobby the judges of the Supreme Court to release Yorm Bopha on Friday. The courts in Cambodia are not independent,” she added, comparing the case to that of former Bavet City Governor Chhouk Bundith, who remains at large despite being sentenced to less jail time then Ms. Bopha—-18 months—for shooting into a crowd of garment workers.
Clad in white ceremonial garb, the procession, composed mostly of women, wound three times around the court, carrying signs calling for Yorm Bopha’s release.
In front of the court’s entrance, Yorm Bopha’s husband, Luos Sakhorn, and her son tended a small fire into which protesters threw copies of her Phnom Penh Municipal Court warrant.
“I believe the Supreme Court will find justice for my wife, because the [lower courts] didn’t have any evidence to convict her,” he said.
“We are burning the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s warrant, because their procedure was wrong; they arrested me and my wife first, and issued the warrant later,” he said.
Ms. Bopha was arrested on September 4, 2012, and sentenced to three years in prison in December that year. Mr. Sakhorn was initially arrested alongside his wife but was later released. In June, the Court of Appeal upheld Ms. Bopha’s conviction but suspended one year of the sentence.
“Yorm Bopha is a prisoner of conscience who is behind bars purely because of her human rights activism. She must be freed immediately and unconditionally,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s deputy Asia-Pacific director, in a statement released by the group Tuesday.
“Thousands of our members and supporters around the world are taking action on Yorm Bopha’s behalf, calling on the Cambodian authorities to finally set her free.”
Hundreds of people worldwide have already pledged their support for Yorm Bopha by sending Amnesty pictures of themselves holding signs calling for her release.
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