The Supreme Court yesterday heard appeals of five out of 11 opposition activists jailed after violence at an opposition protest in July 2014 at Freedom Park.
Meach Sovannara, a Cambodian-American and head of the CNRP’s information and media department, and 10 other activists were convicted of leading and participating in an insurrection at the July 15, 2014 demonstration that led to a clash between activists and Daun Penh district security guards.
They were sentenced to between seven and 20 years’ imprisonment.
The Appeal Court previously decided to hear separately two complaints – an appeal to annul municipal court proceedings and an appeal against their conviction – for six of the accused only. The five others were not considered.
At the more than two-hour hearing yesterday, the five claimed similarly that they had been sentenced in violation of procedures as their defense lawyers were absent during the hearing at the time. The 11 accused had been defended by two different groups of lawyers.
No differently from the past, Mr. Sovannara called the conviction against him and the other opposition activists a political game in which politicians were violating the court’s jurisdiction.
“This political matter can be solved by politics only. I would like the court to add us in this appeal to annul court proceedings, review the wrong implementation of court procedures and drop the charges,” he said.
Supreme Court presiding judge Seong Panhavuth said that the lawyers of the five accused did not present clearly their complaint in appeal municipal court proceedings, which resulted in the Appeal Court only making a decision on the six.
However, he added that he would check on their request and planned to announce a decision on Wednesday.
After the hearing, defense lawyer for the five accused Choung Chou Ngy showed the complaint documents to reporters which he submitted to the chamber on August 7, 2015. He said it was the chamber’s fault for not noting the complaint clearly which led to their decision.
“We filed the complaint clearly, but the court said there was no appeal on annulment procedures. It is their fault. This case was sentenced by the court in clear violation of procedures and the Supreme Court should consider this,” he said.
The violence near Freedom Park on July 15, 2014, resulted in injuries to 39 security guards and 10 protesters, including five security guards who were seriously injured.
Later, the 39 security guards each sued for between $5,000 and $10,000 in damages. Besides convicting and sentencing the 11 CNRP activists, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court also ordered them to compensate the 39 guards.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court yesterday also conducted the bail request hearing of Boeung Kak land activist Tep Vanny relating to violence that occurred near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in 2013 when she and other activists demanded a resolution to the Boeung Kak area land dispute.
After the closed-door hearing ended, the presiding judge postponed announcement of the verdict until Wednesday.