The Court of Appeal on Friday upheld the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s controversial verdict against seven men—members of an anti-CPP advocacy group that has been labeled a terrorist organization—who were given seven to eight years in jail for plotting to overthrow the government.
The trial last April ended in the conviction of 12 men and one woman involved in the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF). Six of the suspects were tried in absentia—including the group’s Denmark-based founder, Sam Serey—following the arrest in Thailand and extradition of the seven men a year earlier.
Rights groups criticized the verdict as politically motivated and based on fabricated evidence along with testimony extracted under torture, noting that the group’s main activity, disseminating literature critical of the CPP, posed little threat to the government.
On Friday, however, Presiding Judge Yet Molin ruled that that threat posed by the group was serious and substantiated by evidence, which included documents and laptops confiscated from the defendants that she said proved that they intended to foment a revolution.
“They had the intention to challenge the government in a manner that could have been dangerous to Cambodia,” Judge Molin said.
“Their leaflets railed against the government and they urged the international community to not recognize the government, so the Appeal Court supports the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict as correct.”
None of the defendants—Thach Kongphuong, 38; Yin Yav, 56; Yorn Yoeub, 26; Khem Ma, 29; and Suon Phal, 53, Yorn Kimsrun, 28 and Suong Sithikun, 53—were in court on Friday.
Sam Sokong, a lawyer for two of the defendants, said the court had ruled incorrectly and sentenced his clients too harshly.
“The court did not have enough evidence to charge my clients with plotting,” Mr. Sokong said. “If they wanted to topple the government, they would have needed serious planning and heavy weaponry.”