Cambodia sentences exiled opposition leader to 10 years
Sam Rainsy was sentenced to 10 years on Thursday and has been in France since 2015 to avoid jail.
A Cambodian court sentenced exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to ten years in jail on Thursday for a purported conspiracy to overthrow strongman ruler Hun Sen.
Rainsy has been living in France since 2015 to escape prison for a number of convictions he believes are politically motivated, including a 25-year term he was convicted of in March of last year.
In addition to Rainsy, the court sentenced six other major opposition politicians to ten years in prison and 13 more activists to five years. Another activist received a five-year suspended sentence.
Wives and supporters of those convicted were outside the court as authorities tried to take supporting banners away.
Attorney Sam Sokong told AFP, "After the verdict was announced, my jailed clients screamed out injustice -- they were so angry with the judgment."
Relatives were distraught, and one defendant's wife, So Ith, told AFP that the judgment is "very unjust," adding that she expected the release of her husband today. She pleaded with the international community to "help my husband."
Hun Sen is one of the world's longest-ruling dictators, having held power for more than 30 years, despite accusations from critics and rights groups that he has ruthlessly suppressed dissent by imprisoning opponents and activists. Rainsy called on Cambodians to stand up against Hun Sen and allegations against him stem from his planned return in 2019.
Around 150 opposition personalities and activists have been charged with treason and incitement, primarily for posting social media comments in support of Rainsy's return.
Cambodian authorities have increased arrests of former members of the disbanded opposition party, human rights advocates, and opposing voices after the previous general election in 2018 when Hun Sen's party won every seat without meaningful opposition.
According to Human Rights Watch's Phil Robertson, "The mass trial and convictions of political opponents on baseless charges is a witch hunt that discredits both the Cambodian government and the country's courts."