Court Suspends Land Activist’s Jail Sentence

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday upheld a three-year sentence against anti-eviction activist Yorm Bopha for a 2012 assault conviction, but she will not be returning to prison, with the court deciding to suspend the remainder of her prison time.

In a case widely seen as politically motivated, Ms. Bopha—labeled a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International—spent 14 months and eight days behind bars before being released in November 2013 after the Supreme Court ordered the case to be reinvestigated.

Anti-eviction activist Yorm Bopha speaks to reporters outside the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Anti-eviction activist Yorm Bopha speaks to reporters outside the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Tuesday’s long-delayed decision angered both Ms. Bopha, who sought to completely clear her name, and a relative of the two assaulted moto-taxi drivers, who had requested compensation.

“The council of trial judges decided to sentence Ms. Yorm Bopha to three years…but ordered [her] to serve only 14 months, eight days in jail,” said Pol Sam Oeun, the presiding judge. “This jail term was implemented in prison already, and the remaining sentence was suspended.”

Mr. Sam Oeun did not provide an explanation for the sentence and could not be reached by telephone.

Ms. Bopha, who has long claimed that she was imprisoned for standing up against a CPP senator’s development project that filled in Boeng Kak lake, where she lived, said the Appeal Court failed to deliver the justice she was hoping for.

“I think that this decision is still unjust for me because this Appeal Court sentenced me to my jail term that was served already,” she said. “I will discuss with my lawyer whether to appeal to the Supreme Court because this case was created and it is a land dispute that the authorities have taken revenge over.”

Ms. Bopha was sent to prison in 2012 after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found her guilty of ordering an attack on the moto-taxi drivers who were said to have ripped a mirror off her family’s car.

Vath Sarath, a father to one victim and uncle to another, also said the sentence was unacceptable.

“If Ms. Yorm Bopha negotiated to pay compensation to my son and my nephew, I would want to finish this case,” he said.

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