PHNOM PENH, April 25, 2011 (AFP) - A Cambodian court on Monday slapped exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy with yet another two-year jail term, this time for accusing the foreign minister of being a former Khmer Rouge member.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court found the outspoken politician guilty in absentia of defamation and inciting discrimination for claiming in a 2008 speech that Hor Namhong once belonged to the blood-soaked communist movement.
Sam Rainsy, who lives in France, now faces a total of 14 years in prison if he returns to Cambodia following a string of convictions that opponents say are politically motivated.
"The verdict is unjust," Sam Rainsy's lawyer Choung Chou Ngy told AFP, adding that he will now discuss with his client whether to appeal the ruling.
Sam Rainsy was also ordered to pay eight million riel ($2,000) in compensation to Hor Namhong.
In September 2010, the leader of the eponymous Sam Rainsy party was handed a 10-year sentence in absentia for publishing a false map of the border with Vietnam.
It followed a two-year sentence in January 2010 for inciting racial discrimination and uprooting border markings with neighbouring Vietnam in an incident the previous year.
After exhausting his appeals against that punishment, Sam Rainsy was last month stripped of his parliamentary seat.
The opposition party and rights groups have said the convictions are an attempt to keep Sam Rainsy, 62, from taking part in Cambodia's national election in 2013.
He is seen as the main rival to Prime Minister Hun Sen, 60, who was a Khmer Rouge cadre before he turned against the regime. Hun Sen has vowed to stay in power until he is 90 years old.
Up to two million people died of overwork and starvation or were executed under the Khmer Rouge, which outlawed religion, property rights, currency and schools during its 1975-1979 rule.
Hor Namhong has long said that he and his family were prisoners at a Khmer Rouge camp, and has successfully sued people in the past for claiming that he had links to the regime.
Last May, a French appeals court upheld a guilty verdict against Sam Rainsy for remarks made in his autobiography about the foreign minister's alleged role in the hardline communist movement.