Seven opposition CNRP lawmakers-elect and a party official who are charged with leading an insurrection and incitement to commit a felony were released on bail from Prey Sar Prison at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The eight were arrested last week for their alleged roles in a July 15 protest to lift a demonstration ban on Freedom Park that turned violent when the protesters fought back against thuggish Daun Penh district security guards and severely beat some of them.
Their release came just hours after CNRP President Sam Rainsy struck a deal with Prime Minister Hun Sen to end a yearlong political deadlock and see the opposition’s 55 elected lawmakers sworn into the National Assembly.
Meng Sopheary, a lawyer for CNRP lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua, said last night that the court had agreed to release the eight detainees based on three points.
“The first point is that [their release] is necessary in the current situation. Secondly, they pose no threat to the investigative procedure and, third, the prosecutor did not object,” Ms. Sopheary said.
CNRP lawmakers-elect Keo Phirum, Men Sothavrin, Ho Vann, Real Camerin, Nuth Rumduol and Long Ry, as well as Oeur Narith, assistant to CNRP public affairs officer Mu Sochua, emerged from Prey Sar Correctional Center 1 at about 4:45 p.m.
About 10 minutes later, Ms. Sochua walked free from the women’s facility, Prey Sar’s Correctional Center 2, and was greeted by upwards of 500 party faithful who had sung, danced and waved flags in the rain for hours ahead of her release.
“This is freedom. This is democracy,” Ms. Sochua shouted as she held aloft a lotus flower and a Cambodian flag.
“There are no conditions on my release…. It is a patriotic idea from all parties.”
Journalists and supporters mobbed Ms. Sochua upon her release.
Likewise, the freed men were swamped by relatives, journalists and supporters who charged through a police line to get close to them.
The eight stand accused of inciting supporters to beat district security guards and of leading an insurrection, charges that rights groups have called politically motivated.
Central to the charges is the claim that the CNRP leaders had arranged for rice sacks full of crude wooden clubs to be delivered to the protest and used against the state security forces.
At a press conference last week, senior CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun showed video footage of a person emptying two bags of wooden clubs onto the road and claimed they were the weapons of the CNRP “anarchists.”
However, other images and video from the clash clearly show those same bags of weapons being unloaded from a truck belonging to the municipality by district security guards, who dispensed them among their ranks before walking toward the demonstrators.