The Phnom Penh Municipal Court drastically reduced the charges against two activists initially on trial for incitement to commit a felony, instead sentencing them on Monday to six days in prison for “insulting.”
Incitement to commit a felony carries a sentence of between six months and two years in prison.
The activists, Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea, both from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood, were arrested during a peaceful “Black Monday” protest last week and sent to pretrial detention on Wednesday.
With a few dozen activists protesting outside the courthouse, Presiding Judge Pech Vicheathor read out the verdict at about 11 a.m.
“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court, after listening to the defendants, prosecutors, lawyers, then reviewing the evidence…charges defendants Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea with insulting according to Article 502 of Criminal Code,” Judge Vicheathor said.
“As punishment, defendants Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea are sentenced to six days in prison and fined 80,000 riel each,” or about $20, he said.
The judge did not explain the decision to change the charge, and court officials could not immediately be reached.
Ms. Sophea was released from prison on Monday night, while Ms. Vanny remains in pre-trial detention in a separate case related to a protest in 2013.
Ms. Vanny and Ms. Sophea have been among the leaders of the Black Monday campaign to free four human rights activists and an election official jailed in April on charges widely viewed as being politically motivated. Calls for a proper investigation into the murder of political analyst Kem Ley last month have become a central feature of the protests.
At the demonstration in Boeng Kak on August 15, when Ms. Vanny and Ms. Sophea were arrested, those present were cursing effigies of court officials who they say have failed to find justice for Kem Ley’s family.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount that Ms. Vanny and Ms. Sophea were fined by the court. It also failed to note that Tep Vanny was also in pre-trial detention in a separate case.