Verdict Issued Against Six Arrested in September’s Post-Election Violence

PHNOM PENH — Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday issued a verdict in a case against six people accused of post-election violence in September.

The court ordered the release of three men, but found three others guilty on charges of incitement of violence.

One man, Nguyen Thi Duc, was given a reduced sentence of one year; two others were given reduced sentences of 25 days.

Nguyen Thi Duc declined to comment outside the courtroom Friday, but his lawyer say she planned to appeal the decision.

All six were arrested Sept. 15 during violent post-election protests on the outskirts of Phnom Penh that left at least one person dead and 10 injured.

But Human Rights Watch said the Cambodian prosecution failed to show any evidence the six were involved in the violence in court earlier this month.

“The court proceedings and eyewitness accounts make it clear that the police arbitrarily seized a few people from a crowd,” Brad Adam’s, Asia director for the group, said in a statement. “Instead of prosecuting the six to justify the security forces’ use of excessive force against protesters, the authorities should free them and bring charges against security personnel responsible for a death and many injuries.”

Am Sam Ath, head of monitoring for the rights group Licadho, said charges should have been dropped for all six.

“They only came across the scene, and the authorities arrested them and put them in jail,” he said. “The authorities who opened fire and injured and killed people, why have they not been brought to justice?”

Friday’s verdict comes amid ongoing crackdowns and arrests of protesters. Cambodian authorities are still holding 21 labor protesters arrested in a violent crackdown on demonstrations in January.

Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, led a delegation to meet with the detainees in Kampong Cham province Friday. He told VOA Khmer the detainees are in strong spirits, though some suffer health problems from beatings they received from security forces during the crackdown.

“I call for the release of the 21 workers and heroic protesters, because they are innocent victims,” he said. “Other people used violence on them, but the perpetrators remain free and the victims are imprisoned. This is very unjust.”