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Friday, 3 March 2023

Cambodia opposition leader Kem Sokha sentenced to 27 years

Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha has been sentenced to 27 years under house arrest after being found guilty of treason in a three year trial drawn out by COVID-19 and delays allowed to government lawyers to find new evidence of the politician’s alleged crimes.

The judge at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court court told the former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) that he would be banned from politics and voting in elections indefinitely.

Kem Sokha was arrested in September 2017 without a warrant in a midnight raid on his home. The CNRP was later dissolved, and the government under longtime ruler and Prime Minister Hun Sen made it a crime to associate with the name or depict its leaders’ images.

Kem Sokha was charged with “conspiracy with a foreign power” under article 443 of Cambodia’s criminal code and his trial has been condemned by the United States as politically motivated.

Initially detained in a remote provincial prison and denied bail several times before he was allowed parole, Kem Sokha was not allowed to leave the country or conduct political activities.

The trial began in January 2020, and Sokha was questioned about his involvement in politics starting from 1993, through his time running a human rights NGO, and then his involvement with Sam Rainsy, another opposition leader who lives in exile in Paris, who merged their political groupings to create the CNRP in 2012.

The crackdown on the CNRP came ahead of national elections in 2018, after its strong performance in local polls raised expectations that it would pose a serious challenge to Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

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