Lawyers Submit Bail Requests for Imprisoned Protesters

Ten lawyers representing 22 of the 23 striking workers, union officials and political activists imprisoned at a maximum-security prison in Kompong Cham province since their arrests at two protests in Phnom Penh earlier this month submitted bail requests for their clients Thursday, one of the lawyers said.

The requests for the prisoners, detained in the notorious Correctional Center 3 (CC3), were submitted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where the 23 have been charged with intentional violence and property destruction, said Ham Surith, a Community Legal Education Center lawyer.

Vorn Pao, a prominent union leader, was not included in the requests as his application for bail was rejected last week.

“We have called on the court to release the 22 people, since they are all both workers and breadwinners. Their families rely on them,” Mr. Surith said. “The 22 people can go live with their families, and if the court wants to call on them to appear at the court, they will show up as requested.”

Ten of the 23 were arrested by paratroopers who broke up the Yakjin factory protest of striking garment workers on January 2. The remaining 13 were arrested the next day at the Veng Sreng Street protest, during which military police shot dead five striking workers.

Prison and court officials refused repeated requests from the lawyers to reveal where the 23 prisoners, most of whom were badly beaten by authorities before their arrests, were being detained until January 8, and have since only allowed limited access.

Mr. Pao is currently suffering from complications of kidney surgery he had five months ago, according to his wife, while rights workers who visited him in prison last week said authorities have repeatedly kicked him near the site of his surgery.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating Judge Phou Povsrun declined to comment on the bail request for the remaining 22 but said the court was moving forward in its investigations of prisoners, whose plight was also raised by U.N. rights envoy Surya Subedi’s during his meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.

“We are in the investigative process, and are collecting evidence to either inculpate or exculpate the defendants, and if we find they were not involved, we will release them,” he said.

“We are going to implement the law.”

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