Phnom Penh court frees 25 protesters

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Some of the releases suspects parade on top of vehicles.

PHNOM PENH (The Cambodia Herald) – Justice was served and yet denied Friday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as it announced verdicts for 25 protesters arrested in violent clashes at Stung Meanchey, SL and Yakjin factories, and on Veng Sreng Street.  

All of them were freed by the Phnom Penh court. Their supporters and civil society welcome the court decision.

Judge Keo Mony sentenced the 25 protests from between six months to four years and six months in prison, but suspend their sentence, releasing them from imprisonment.

The court handed down four years and six month suspended sentence to unionists Vorn Pov, Theng Savoeun, Chan Puthisak and Sokun Sambathpiseth, but fined them US$2,000 each.

Monks, protesters as well as their supporters who were gathering outside the court welcome the court decision. 

The first group, 13 men who were arrested in the Canadia Industrial Zone, was sentenced to 1 to 4 years imprisonment without fine, but the court decided to suspend their sentences. 

The second group, arrested for incidents at the Yak Ching garment factory, included Mr. Vorn Pao, Mr. Chan Puthisak and Mr. Sokun Sambath Piseth. They all received 4 years and 6 months imprisonment and a fine of 8 million Riel, but these sentences were suspended as well. 
Mr. Theng Savoeun was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment with a fine of 8 million Riel, while the other 6 men received sentences of 2 and a half to three years without fine. 

 The two defendants from the Stung Meanchey Bridge incident during the SL garment factory workers demonstrations on November 12, 2013, were also convicted, but all the sentences were suspended without fine. 

Father of one of those convicted, Mr. Yuom Sokun, said, “I am very happy that the court ruled this way. The most important thing is that my son is released from prison.” 

Mr. Am Sam Ath, chief of the technical investment department of human rights protection with LICAHDO, said, “We are happy and we welcome this judgment. The records of these men will still bear these sentences, but the court has suspended the sentences.” 

Mr. Sam Sokong, lawyer representing the Yak Ching factory, said, “We cannot accept the decision. We will discuss with our clients whether we should appeal or not.  There are many people who think that this is a political issue, but for us it is the willing of the judge and principle of the law.” 

He added that the 25 men cannot commit any crime during their suspended sentences. If they commit an offence during this time, they will be sentenced much more severely.  

When the court judgment finished around 9 a.m., the situation outside the court looked better than on previous occasions. Police still put up barricades to block the street around the court, but there were no fire trucks present. 

Around 200 protestors including land activists, monks and workers who had gathered at the court burned depictions of judges and prosecutors. 

Even though the 23 men were sent to Correctional Center 1 (CC1) to file their leave from prison, the protestors did not leave the court until 10:30 a.m. when they paraded to CC1 to welcome the 23 men released. 

An independent political analyst said that Friday was a sad for Cambodian justice as the opposition and through their overt supporters had put pressure on the international brands buyers with open threats to release the activists.

This means that in future when there is vested interest at play, the Government will be forced to adopt similar actions and probably give “ directives” to the courts. 

This spells non independence of the courts and victory for the anarchists and trouble makers and more difficult time for city residents and businessmen as these people will be emboldened and commit more violent acts. 

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