Opposition senator jailed for 7 years in Cambodia

Hong Sok Hour arrested in 2015 for sharing video that allegedly included fake border treaty with Vietnam

Opposition senator jailed for 7 years in Cambodia

World Bulletin / News Desk

A Cambodian opposition senator was jailed for seven years on Monday, for the crime of sharing a video on Facebook that allegedly included a fake border treaty.

Cambodia’s opposition has long claimed that neighboring Vietnam is encroaching onto Cambodian land, while the government insists on the accuracy of the demarcation between the countries.

Hong Sok Hour, a senator for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), was arrested in August 2015 on the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The offending video clip featured a copy of the 1979 border treaty between Cambodia and Vietnam, which had been altered.

The senator was convicted on charges of forging a public document and incitement to commit a crime based on the dissemination of the video.

“This afternoon, marking his 450th day in jail, Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted opposition senator Hong Sok Hour of forgery and incitement charges, handing down a seven-year prison sentence,” rights group Licadho said in a statement issued Monday afternoon.

Sok Hour was never stripped of his immunity.

Instead, majority senators from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party said the court could proceed with its case against him, as he had effectively been caught red-handed.

“During his trial, which began in October 2015 and resumed just two weeks ago after more than a year's postponement, Hong Sok Hour’s defence lawyers were prevented from publicly presenting exculpatory evidence by trial judge Ros Piseth,” Licadho said.

The SRP’s former leader Sam Rainsy, who in 2013 established the Cambodia National Rescue Party, has also been charged in connection with the same video case, because it was posted to his Facebook wall.

He is currently in exile to avoid being imprisoned in a separate case.

Political analyst Ou Virak said on Monday that while it had been argued by the government that Sok Hour tried to misguide people by sharing the video, “you would need to argue that there was malicious intent and that he knowingly pushed the document; but that’s not what I’m seeing in the whole case.”

Because of this, he said, it could set another dangerous precedent with regard to freedom of speech in Cambodia.

“Unless you prove malicious intent, people who make innocent mistakes could be put in prison and you could see a whole bunch of issues. It affects the whole notion of free speech if there is no room for people to make a mistake.”

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Last Mod: 07 Kasım 2016, 14:31
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