Supporters of anti-eviction activist Yorm Bopha flew into a fit of rage, burning an effigy of the scales of justice, on Wednesday at news that the Supreme Court had turned down the 29-year-old mother’s request for bail over her conviction for encouraging the beating of two motorcycle-taxi drivers last year.
Ms. Bopha was arrested in September for allegedly playing a part in the August 7 assault on two taxi drivers. She was convicted in December for committing intentional violence with aggravating circumstances by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and sentenced to three years in jail.
Challenging the Appeal Court’s decision to deny her bail in November, Ms. Bopha on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court for bail on the grounds of a weak stomach and unspecified heart problems. The Supreme Court turned her down for lack of medical proof to support her condition.
“The Supreme Court cannot accept the request because the defendant’s health issues have no evidence or official documentation issued by health authorities,” presiding Judge Kem Ponn said. “Believing that the Appeal Court decided correctly, we decide to uphold the verdict.”
Ms. Bopha is also currently awaiting an Appeal Court hearing in an attempt to overturn her entire conviction.
Upon hearing of the bail denial, some of the roughly 100 people who had gathered to protest outside the Supreme Court rushed past the guards at the front gate and pounded on the prison van that quickly rushed Ms. Bopha back to Prey Sar prison.
Outside the gates of the court, the mainly female protesters made quick work of a giant styrofoam replica of the scales of justice that they had brought with them, beating it to pieces in the middle of the road and setting the pile of foam on fire, sending a thick column of coal black smoke into the air above the court.
Some of the protesters cried and wailed in grief, others shook the front gates of the court and pelted court guards with flowers and abuse.
At Ms. Bopha’s trial in December, the only evidence the court presented against her came from the two victims, who testified that she did not take part in the attack herself but, they claimed, only ordered the violence.
Human rights groups have faulted the trial process and have accused the courts of fabricating the case against Ms. Bopha because of her activism against the government-orchestrated evictions in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood.