PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
For two consecutive days families and friends of land rights activists Tim Sakmony and Yorn Bopha gathered near the Municipal Court in Phnom Penh to support them during their trial and demand their immediate release.
Unable to finish Bopha’s hearing on the same day, the court postponed her verdict and finished the day by sentencing Sakmony to six months in prison after she was found guilty of fraud. Sakmony’s sentence was reduced to the three months and 21 days already served under pre-trial detention and was able to return home.
The day after and with their hopes up, Bopha’s supporters returned to hear the court’s decision on the case. Unlike Sakmony and despite having been declared a Prisoners of Conscience by Amnesty International, Yorn Bopha, her husband and two brothers were convicted of intentional violence and sentenced to three years in prison. Lous Sakorm, Bopha’s husband’s was able to walk free out of the court after his sentence was suspended.
Bopha returned to prison.
Family members and friends of land-rights activists Tim Sakmony and Yorn Bopha gather outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to demand the immediate release of the two women who rights groups describe as the latest victims of a legal system that is increasingly being used to punish those who speak out against members of the ruling political party and the tycoons who bankroll it.
The court sentenced Sakmony to six months in prison at the end of the first day on a fraud-related charge, widely regarded as a fraud itself. She was convicted of making a “false declaration” in a request for additional housing following her community’s brutal eviction from on January 3, 2012.Her sentence, however, was reduced to three months and 21 days and she was released for time served during pre-trial detention.
Sakmony’s release on December 26 inspired hope among Bopha’s supporters when they returned to court on the second day to hear the verdict in the case against an activist described as a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International. These hopes were dashed.
Bopha, her husband and two brothers were convicted of intentional violence with aggravating circumstances, sentenced to three years in prison and fined 30 million riel (US$7,500). The sentence of Bopha’s husband, Lous Sakorm, was suspended. Her two brothers were convicted in absentia and arrest warrants were issued for them.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodia Center for Human Rights, said: “Yorm Bopha is being sentenced for leading the protest against the detention of the 13 Boeng Kak women in May; yet what is the most likely outcome following this sentence? More protests. If the government wants people to stop protesting, it should think about protecting its people and addressing their concerns, not slapping them like children, inventing punishments, hoping they’ll shut up.”
By Vincent MacIssac
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