“Simulation of justice”: Cambodian Rainsy sentenced to 25 years in prison | Political news

Cambodia’s exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy was sentenced in absentia to 25 years in prison for an alleged plot to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, a court official said, prompting a swift conviction from opposition and rights groups.

Rainsy was sentenced “for an (attempted) attack in Cambodia in 2019,” Y Rin, spokesperson for the Phnom Penh municipal court, told AFP news agency on Monday, refusing to give more details.

The court also deprived Rainsy of the right to vote and stand for election, the official said.

“Once again, Cambodia’s politically-controlled justice system is mocking justice rather than defending it,” Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia, said in a statement on Tuesday.

He added that the case against Rainsy was based on “fake, politically motivated allegations fabricated by a dictatorial one-party state.”

Aside from Rainsy, other opposition politicians Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang were also sentenced to 22 years in prison, according to government-friendly outlet Fresh News.

Rainsy said the decision couldn’t be taken seriously. “It’s just a political statement born out of weakness and fear,” he wrote on Twitter.

Rainsy’s wife Tioulong Saumura and five other former senior officers of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was banned before the 2018 elections, were also sentenced to 20 years in prison.

“In each of these political trials, the temptation is to say that Cambodia cannot sink lower in its violation of human rights, but somehow Prime Minister Hun Sen and his colleagues find a way to reach a new nadir, ”said Robertson.

“There seems to be no limit to the human rights violations this government will inflict on the Cambodian people.”

“ Lack of due process ”

In a statement, US Ambassador to Cambodia W Patrick Murphy said Washington was “troubled” by the “due process” sentences.

“We urge the authorities to reopen the political space and allow all voices to be heard and to participate.”

Rainsy has been living in exile in France since 2015 to avoid jail time for several other convictions which he says are politically motivated.

In 2019, he had tried to return home, fly through Malaysia. However, he was prevented from continuing his flight to Phnom Penh.

In his statement, Rainsy said the latest jail term shows Hun Sen’s fear of any opposition.

In 2019, Sam Rainsy was also barred from checking in for a Paris-Bangkok flight [File: Charles Platiau/Reuters]

“Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is afraid of any risk of my return to the Cambodian political scene,” he said.

“Hun Sen fears the prospect of any free and fair election that would inevitably lead to the end of his current autocratic rule.”

Hun Sen is one of the world’s oldest leaders, maintaining a 36-year grip on power with methods that critics say include imprisoning political opponents and activists.

He said he viewed Rainsy’s planned return in 2019 as an “attempted coup”.

Since the July 2018 elections, when Hun Sen’s party won all parliamentary seats in a credible unopposed vote, Cambodian authorities have stepped up arrests of former members of the disbanded opposition party, rights defenders. human beings and dissenting voices.

Around 150 opposition figures and activists have been tried en masse on charges of treason and incitement to hatred, mainly for sharing posts on social media platforms supporting Rainsy’s attempt to enter the country.

While many opposition politicians fled Cambodia fearing arrest, the country’s main opposition leader Kem Sokha faces a separate treason trial, which was postponed indefinitely in March of l ‘last year.

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