Rights Group Appeals for Activist’s Release ActivistSok Yoeun as 5th Year in Jail Looms

Amnesty International called on Thursday for the unconditional release of Sok Yoeun, the Sam Rainsy Party activist jailed in Thailand since 1999 following a request by the Cambodian government to have him extradited as a suspect in an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Declaring Sok Yoeun a “prisoner of conscience,” Amnesty Inter­national said the opposition party activist will soon enter his fifth year in a Thai prison despite being re­cognized by the UN as a refugee and his family having been already granted political asylum in Finland.

“This sick and elderly man will soon enter his fifth year in prison. Not only is there no justification under international law for his continued detention, but there are overwhelming humanitarian grounds for his immediate re­lease,” the human rights group said in a statement.

Sok Yoeun fled to Thailand in September 1999 after being ac­cused of involvement in a rocket attack on Hun Sen’s convoy in 1998 that killed a bystander but caused no damage to the premier’s cavalcade.

Originally jailed by Thai police on immigration violations, Sok Yoeun has been detained in pris­on while Cambodian authorities fight for his extradition. Last November, a Thai court ruled that Sok Yoeun should be extradited back to Cambodia. His lawyers lodged an appeal against the extradition.

Sok Yoeun denied any part in the attack and Sam Rainsy Party officials claim the arrest was political theatrics aimed at intimidating opposition party workers. Amne­sty International also claimed Thursday that Sok Yoeun’s case was “politically motivated.”

“Sok Yoeun, in his late 50s, is a pawn in a bigger political game. It is truly shameful that an elderly and sick man should be deprived of his liberty and family,” the organization wrote.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Friday that authorities have firm evidence linking Sok Yoeun to the rocket blast and that the courts are awaiting his extradition.

“We have the hard evidence that he was involved in the assassination attempt in 1998. We still need [Sok Yoeun] to stand in front of Cambodian law,” he said.

In May, Sok Yoeun’s family wrote to Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej seeking his release and calling the Cambodian government’s claims “false accusations.”

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