Both the prosecution and defense in the trial of three environmental activists accused of threatening to damage a sand-dredging barge in Koh Kong province last year presented protest video footage on Tuesday purportedly supporting opposing accounts of the incident, a rights worker said.
The activists—Sim Samnang, 29; Tri Sovichea, 26; and Sun Mala, 24—are all members of the NGO Mother Nature and were arrested in August while leading a campaign to stop illegal sand-dredging in Koh Kong, which locals blame for the destruction of fish stocks.
They were subsequently charged with threatening to cause damage after climbing aboard a dredging barge owned by the company Direct
Access and allegedly telling workers that they would set fire to the vessel if the dredging did not stop.
During the second day of their trial at the Koh Kong Provincial Court on Tuesday, video evidence was presented by both prosecutors and defense lawyers, said In Kongchet, the provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, who was present in the courtroom.
The prosecution’s footage, which was filmed by Direct
Access, “shows the three activists joining protests with the villagers, ranting and raving about the company,” Mr. Kongchet said.
“The deputy prosecutor, Ou Tray, concluded that the three environmental activists are truly guilty because they climbed onto the barge and destroyed property, and also threatened the company,” he added.
For their part, lawyers for the defendants played a video that shows the activists protesting peacefully, proving, Mr. Kongchet said, “that they did not come together to threaten the company as accused.”
“The three activists asked the court to drop the charge and release them because they are not guilty,” he added.
Horm Sunrith, a lawyer for the activists provided by labor rights group Central, said Direct Access was demanding $100,000 in compensation from his clients for damaging their property, but said he did not know what the men were accused of damaging.
“I told the court that my clients are very poor, and so don’t have money to pay the compensation. And my clients are not guilty,” he said.
In March, the provincial court dropped related conspiracy charges against two founders of Mother Nature, though the same charge still stands against co-founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, a Spanish national. Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson has remained abroad since the government deported him last year after refusing to renew his visa over his involvement in a Mother Nature campaign against a planned hydropower dam in Koh Kong.
Mr. Tray, the deputy prosecutor, said a verdict in the dredging case would be delivered on Friday but refused to answer questions about Tuesday’s hearing. Other court officials could not be reached.