Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Cambodia's highest court rejects appeal by exiled opposition leader


via CAAI

Mar 1, 2011

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a two-year jail sentence against exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy for tampering with demarcation posts on the border with Vietnam.

The ruling confirmed the judgement of a lower court last year, which convicted Sam Rainsy of racial incitement and damaging public property after he uprooted several border markers.

Sam Rainsy's lawyer, Choung Chou Ngy, condemned Tuesday's ruling.

'It is not fair - I think this is a political case, not a penal case,' he told the German Press Agency dpa.

Sam Rainsy currently lives in exile in France.

Mu Sochua, a prominent parliamentarian with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), said Tuesday the ruling was predictable since it had come from a judicial system 'totally shaped to silence the opposition.'

'We continue to condemn the form and quality of justice in Cambodia, because the courts are used as a political tool against Mr Sam Rainsy as well as other activists who are not in favour of the policies of the government,' she said.

Mu Sochua, who lost a defamation case against Prime Minister Hun Sen last year, has yet to have her parliamentary immunity restored.

The SRP has charged that the land rights of Cambodian farmers living near the Vietnam border were not being respected in the ongoing process to demarcate the 1,270-kilometre border. The process is scheduled to be completed by 2012.

The incident riled Hanoi, which is a close ally of Hun Sen's government. Vietnam has significant interests in agribusiness, aviation, telecommunications and banking in Cambodia.

The judiciary has long been criticized as being a pawn of the ruling party.

Last June, the United Nations human rights envoy, Surya Subedi, said some judges were not interested in upholding the law. The courts faced 'tremendous challenges in delivering justice for the people of the country, especially the poor and marginalized,' he said.

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