The Constitutional Council of Cambodia has set an appeal hearing for three former opposition party members in Battambang who had fines upheld by the National Election Committee for their roles in an election boycott campaign.
The NEC last week decided to uphold charges against five former opposition officials who were found guilty of violating article 142 of the Election Law in Battambang province and another five officials in Kampot province on the same charges.
However, seven of the ten had their fines eliminated.
The NEC upheld the $2,500 fine for Chea Chiv, former head of the CNRP in Battambang, while Kruy Kimsaing and Thong Saroeun had their fines dropped to $1,250 each.
NEC president Sik Bun Hok said earlier that Mr Chiv was an initiator of the campaign while the two other men were just accomplices.
Im Chhun Lim, president of the Constitutional Council, issued a statement on Saturday saying that the three officials who had the fines upheld have filed an appeal, which will be held on Wednesday morning.
Prom Vichet Akara, a spokesman for the Constitutional Council, yesterday said the unit has assigned officials to the case.
“The Constitutional Council is now looking into the technical framework to note important points to put into consideration,” he said. “I think the judge will announce the result after the appeal hearing on the same day or a day later based on how fast we can work.”
Sam Sokong, a defence lawyer representing the accused, said he hopes the Constitutional Council will issue a fair verdict, noting that calling for an election boycott on social media was akin to exercising freedom of speech.
“I will try my best to raise points supporting my claim in order to help my clients,” he said. “Honestly, my clients do not have enough money to pay the fines, so I hope the Constitutional Council will consider this and drop the fines.” The Battambang Provincial Election Commission first found the three guilty and levelled the fines, which were then upheld by the National Election Committee last week.
After the NEC appeal hearing, Mr Chiv voiced concerns over the fairness of the judgement.
“I am sure that the NEC’s decision was politically motivated,” he said. “I do not think it’s an illegal movement just to gather and post a photo saying that I’m not going to vote.”
The charges were initiated by a complaint filed by a CPP commune chief last month, after which Interior Minister Sar Kheng said the commune chief would drop the complaint if the accused apologised and promised to end election boycott calls.
While many other former opposition officials in other provinces took up the olive branch, Mr Chiv and his two accomplices have refused to retract their boycott statements or apologise.