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One year on in Sokha case

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Opposition leader Kem Sokha is escorted by police following his midnight arrest in Phnom Penh last year. afp

One year on in Sokha case

The International Federation of Human Rights has called for the unconditional release of former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha, as Monday marked the first anniversary of his arrest.

“After jailing Sokha in order to exclude him and his party from the recent sham general election, Prime Minister Hun Sen is now keeping him behind bars to use him as a bargaining chip in an attempt to avoid international sanctions."

“Sokha’s prolonged and arbitrary detention without trial must immediately end,” said Debbie Stothard, the federation’s secretary-general.

Sokha has been put on pre-trial detention for a year after he was charged with “conspiracy with a foreign country” – a charge which carries a jail term of about 15 to 30 years if found guilty.

He was arrested at his house in the capital’s Tuol Kork district following his return from abroad on September 3, last year.

Last Thursday, investigating judge Ky Rithy extended his detention by another six months on the grounds that there was a need to further probe the matter.

Ministry of Justice’s spokesperson Chin Malin said yesterday that demanding Sokha’s release would have no effect at all as the court will decide based on the facts and legal provisions, and not on particular requests from anyone.

“The way to help Kem Sokha is to participate in the legal process by trying to collect evidence to lift [his] burden. This is the best way."

“Even though the court decided to extend his detention, Sokha can file an appeal to the higher court for a bail,” Malin said.

In the meantime, the investigating judge also summoned Vorn Pov, the director of the Indepedent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) as a witness in the case.

The August 28 summon, obtained by The Post, said Pov had to appear in court on September 10 to answer charges related to Sokha.

When contacted yesterday, Pov said he just received the letter and would be present at the court on the day, adding, “I don’t know why I was called to be a witness”.

In January 2014, garment workers staged a protest along Veng Sreng Street. Four people were killed during a confrontation with police and the military.

But a day earlier, a protest took place at Yakjin where Pov and 22 others were arrested.

“I did not go to Veng Sreng Street to protest, I just went there to observe the protest in front of the Yakjin factory, along National Road 4, and I was arrested at Yakjin on January 2, 2014,” said Pov.

Pov was then sentenced to four-and-half years jail in May 2014 for “intentionally causing damage with aggravating circumstances in accordance with Article 411, and “acts of violence with aggravating circumstances” based on Article 218.

However, his sentence was suspended after five months in jail.

The garment workers protested on Veng Sreng Street to demand an increase of the minimum wage to $160 a month from $95.

The government claimed that the protest was a part of “colour revolution” and accused the court-dissolved CNRP leaders of instigating the violent protest.

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