The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld insurrection convictions against 11 former CNRP activists and officials who were jailed for their involvement in a protest to demand access to Freedom Park following the disputed 2013 election.
Presiding Judge Plang Samang said that Phnom Penh Municipal Court was right in its verdict that sentenced the 11 former CNRP members and activists.
“The Court of Appeal has decided to uphold Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict dated on July 21, 2015 and to continue the imprisonment of the 11 people,” Judge Samnang said.
Meach Sovannara, former information department head of the now-dissolved CNRP, and ten activists were found guilty of leading and participating in an insurrection after a violent clash between party supporters and Daun Penh district security guards at Freedom Park on July 15, 2014.
Mr Sovannara was charged and convicted of incitement in July 2015. The Cambodian-US citizen was sentenced to 20 years in prison, along with Khin Chamroeun and Oeur Narith. Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced nine other activists to seven years in prison.
Mr Sovannara said after the announcement of the verdict that Prime Minister Hun Sen should have a political compromise.
“Only politicians can resolve this issue because it is politically motivated,” he said. “I hope that Samdech Hun Sen will have a compromise to release all of us when he wins the election.”
Mr Sovannara said that Mr Hun Sen refused to free former CNRP members who remained behind bars because his ruling CPP feared that it will lose the national election on July 29.
Mr Narith decried the verdict and shouted with disgruntlement.
“The court is a political tool for a politician,” Mr Narith said while being escorted out of the court room to get into an awaiting prison truck.
Following the violence near Freedom Park in July 2015, 39 security guards and ten protesters sustained injuries, and five security guards were seriously injured.
Ou Chanrath, a former CNRP lawmaker, said that he already knew in advance that the 11 former members and activists would remain jailed unless a political settlement materialised.
“It is really unjust for them because they are not perpetrators,” Mr Chanrath said.
Ket Khy, one of six defence lawyers representing the 11 people, said that he will discuss an appeal to the Supreme Court with his clients.
“We are not worried because my clients are innocent and did not commit as charged by the court,” Mr Khy said.
However, Ly Chantola, one of the lawyers representing the security guards, said that he was satisfied with the Appeals Court’s decision.
“On behalf of lawyers for the 39 plaintiffs, I am very happy that the Appeal Court found my clients justice,” Mr Chantola said. “Those defendants committed an insurrection.”