Supreme Court Hears Appeals From Six Jailed Government Critics

The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard appeals from six of those who human rights groups Licadho says are 26 political prisoners in the country’s jails. It is expected to hand down decisions in the cases of five CNRP officials and the country’s most prominent land rights activist on Wednesday.

Tep Vanny, who was arrested while cursing municipal court officials at a protest in August and has been kept in jail over separate protest-related charges, appealed the decision by the lower courts to keep her locked up ahead of an unscheduled trial.

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Jailed activist Tep Vanny enters the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

She arrived in an orange prison jumpsuit with “I Need Justice” written in English on her palm.

“I don’t think that they will release me on bail if both parties will not reach an agreement,” she told reporters. The CPP recently canceled planned talks with the CNRP because the opposition was pushing for the prisoners’ release.

“We do not trust the court system anymore,” she said. “It is a tool of politicians.”

The high court also heard an appeal from five opposition officials and activists whose names were removed from an appeal that initially included 11 defendants convicted of insurrection over a protest at Freedom Park in July 2014 that turned violent.

Attorneys for the five men appealed to have their clients’ names included on the earlier appeal—already rejected—seeking to nullify the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict because the defendants’ lawyers were not present when they were convicted.

Presiding Judge Soeng Panhavuth indicated that he saw the appeal as being groundless.

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Opposition official Meach Sovannara, center, enters the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“As we learned, the appeal has not included the main reason to nullify, so the Appeal Court did not take part in working on it,” Judge Panhavuth said.

Last year, an Appeal Court judge said only six of the 11 defendants had filed requests for verdict nullification. On Wednesday, Chuong Choungy, a lawyer for the five whose names went missing from the complaint, said all 11 of the defendants’ names had been in the document he filed with the court.

“I had submitted it to the Municipal Court to send the appeal to the Court of Appeal,” Mr. Choungy said. “I have no idea why their names are not in the complaint.” The 11 are serving sentences of between seven and 20 years in prison.

“Why did they hold the trial when we didn’t have lawyers?” Meach Sovannara, head of the CNRP’s information department, said in the courtroom.

“I only demanded human rights and justice. Then I was in jail.”

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