Court strikes down activists’ appeal

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Tep Vanny at one of her many court appearances. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected the appeals in two separate cases, one involving opposition activists and another involving a prominent land rights activist.

The court rejected the appeals from CNRP media director Meach Sovannara and four others, who were convicted of insurrection over a violent 2014 protest in Freedom Park, on the grounds that it was contrary to “legal context.”

“The Appeal Court decided to work on it, but this case has not yet completed its procedures. According to article 421 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the appeal was made in accordance to legal norms, but contrary to legal context which cannot be considered now,” Supreme Court presiding judge Seong Panhavuth said.

Attorneys for the five activists had appealed to have their names included on a complaint seeking to annul the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s court proceedings as the verdict was handed down in the absence of their lawyers.

Separately, Supreme Court presiding judge Kim Sotha also struck down Boeung Kak land activist Tep Vanny’s bail request, saying she needed to remain in detention to maintain social stability.

After hearing the verdict, Ms. Vanny cried out in the courtroom as she was being handcuffed to be taken back into detention.

“Kill me, do not hurt me anymore. I am ashamed that Cambodia’s courts are so unfair,” she yelled in the courtroom.

Ms. Vanny’s counsel could not be reached for a comment, but has previously said that they were looking for an alternative legal recourse in the best interest of their client.

Meanwhile Lao Mong Hay, a political analyst who attended yesterday’s hearings involving the opposition activists, said that while the apex court’s verdicts were lawful, they were also made under political pressure.

“I think they will only be free of all charges once the political situation stabilizes which could be after 2018 as currently, the CNRP’s negotiation to secure their release has been ineffective,” he said.

Mr. Sovannara and 10 other activists were convicted of participating in an insurrection during a July 15, 2014, demonstration that resulted in a clash between activists and Daun Penh district security guards. The group were sentenced to between seven and 20 years behind bars.

In the case of Ms. Vanny, she was charged with intentional violence related to a protest outside Prime Minister’s Hun Sen’s house in 2013, a case reactivated after she was arrested during a Black Monday protest last August.

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