The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld a lower court verdict against land activist Tep Vanny who was convicted over violence involving security guards near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house.
Ms Vanny has spent nearly a year in jail after her conviction for intentional violence with aggravating circumstances for a two-and-half year term imposed by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
After the verdict, 50 residents of the Boeng Kak community lit incense to curse developers of the Boeng Kak area and court officials for what they called an unfair decision.
“Because of the power of dollars you have made thousands of families shed tears,” resident Song Sreyleap said, holding up three lit sticks of incense.
Pol Sam Oeun, presiding judge of the Court of Appeal, said Ms Vanny did not have the permission of authorities to protest and submit a petition at the home of the Prime Minister.
“We have decided to uphold the decision of Phnom Penh Municipal Court,” Mr Sam Oeun said.
“We consider that Tep Vanny was a real accomplice who ordered the fight against the victims and was the instigator in the case.”
Ms Vanny shouted that the decision was unfair and she would appeal to the Supreme Court as soon as possible.
“It is an injustice that the court has imprisoned someone who has done nothing wrong,” she said outside the courtroom.
“Today I am imprisoned but you will be the same as me in prison next time.”
She said the court officials were corrupt and had colluded with the perpetrators.
Soueng Sen Karona, senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, said he was disappointed with the result.
“We are sorry the court did not consider what the defence lawyers said during the trial about how Tep Vanny did not take part in violence,” he said.
“The government won’t get any interest out of continuing to keep her in custody, especially near the election in 2018,” Mr Sen Karona added.
Human Rights Watch called for the conviction to be quashed and for Ms Vanny to be freed immediately.
“The case against Tep Vanny is a blatant misuse of prosecutorial power to punish her for her peaceful activism,” said deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.
“The government should also cease persecution of human rights defenders and others exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”