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Activist loses high court appeal

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Tep Vanny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a lower court verdict against land activist Tep Vanny who was last year convicted of violence against security guards near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house.

Ms Vanny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for intentional violence under aggravating circumstances by Phnom Penh Municipal Court in February 2017.

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the Appeal Court’s verdict on the case, which earlier upheld the municipal court’s sentence.

Tep Vanny

The case relates to an incident in 2013 when Ms Vanny and other women from the Boeung Kak community tried to deliver a petition about their land dispute to Mr Hun Sen before violence broke out with security guards and multiple protesters suffered injuries.

Ms Vanny has repeatedly denied being behind the violence.

The plaintiffs and witnesses were absent from the Supreme Court hearing yesterday, but Ms Vanny told the presiding judge that she did not commit the crimes as alleged, and was simply seeking a solution to her community’s land dispute.

“I did not commit violence against the two men, nor did I have any intention to do so,” she said.

Ms Vanny also asked the court to drop the charges and release her, since her 14-year-old daughter was suffering from encephalitis, and her elderly mother was losing her vision.

However, Supreme Court judge Kim Sathavy announced she would uphold the verdict of the Appeal Court.

She argued that the absence of the plaintiffs made no difference to the hearing and said the decision of the Appeal Court was fair.

Ms Vanny’s lawyer Sam Sokunthea said she regretted the ruling since her client was innocent.

“The case against my client lacks any solid evidence and the report into the incident was also unclear,” the lawyer said.

“I regret that the court decided not to free my client to look after her children and elderly mother.”

Almost 30 Boeung Kak and Borei Keila community residents gathered outside the Supreme Court as Ms Vanny’s hearing was conducted.

Boeung Kak resident Bov Sophea said the ruling was unfair.

“It’s unjust because the plaintiffs and witnesses were absent,” she said. “She has been detained for more than a year already. That should be enough for the woman who has worked for the benefit of all Boeung Kak residents.”

The plaintiffs in the case, Daun Penh district security guards Hor Heourn and Ouk Ratana, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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