Sentences for Alleged Anti-Government Movement Upheld

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld prison sentences of be­tween 15 and 17 years handed down to six men by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2011 for forming an armed anti-government force known as the Sovanna Phum—or Golden Vil­lage—movement.

Presiding Judge Plang Sam­nang said that the Appeal Court had decided to leave the men’s sentences unchanged.

“[The Court of Appeal] upholds the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict and will continue to detain the defendants according to the law,” Judge Samnang said simply, without offering the reasoning behind his decision.

The men—Chea Sarann, 51; Liv Soksovann, 51; Phlort Ry, 62; Chum Vichey, 44; Yom Hev, 43; and Port Phor, 48—were arrested in March 2011 and charged with the creation of an illegal anti-government force.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found the group guilty in October 2011 and sentenced Mr. Sarann, the group’s leader, to 17 years in prison, and handed down reduced 15-year sentences to the rest of  the group.

“The Appeal Court’s decision is very unjust and I will appeal to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Sarann said Wednesday.

Mr. Sarann admitted during appeal hearings to have founded the group while working as a security guard for the Sam Rainsy Party, but repeated previous denials that the group was armed or intended to overthrow the government.

In an unlikely move, even the prosecution had said there was scant evidence against two of the defendants and that they should be released.

Appeal Court prosecutor Im Sophan declined to comment on the case, but he had said during the appeal hearings that the prosecution would push for the acquittal of Mr. Hev and Mr. Phor, who claim to be farmers with no knowledge of the movement.

Ly Rathy, lawyer for Mr. Vi­chey, also declined to comment on the case, saying he had been too busy to attend the handing down of the verdict. Chhe Vibol, a lawyer for the other five defendants, said he would help facilitate appeals to the Supreme Court if his clients requested as much.

“The Appeal Court upheld the verdict, so it has not provided justice for them, especially Yom Hev and Port Phor because both know nothing about this case,” he said.

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