Cambodia opposition leader urges swift verdict in long treason trial

Kem Sokha, former leader of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), greets the media at his home before going to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his treason trial in Phnom Penh on October 19, 2022. Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP

PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia's top opposition leader called for a swift verdict in his treason trial Wednesday, after a court ended more than two years of evidence hearings in a case rights groups have said is politically motivated.

Kem Sokha, the co-founder of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, stands accused of conspiring with foreign entities to overthrow strongman ruler Hun Sen's government.

The trial only began some two years after Kem Sokha's arrest, and hearings were postponed in March 2020 following coronavirus restrictions.

During a hearing Wednesday, Kem Sokha told judges he wanted the proceedings to finish soon as he was suffering back and shoulder pain from long spells sitting in the dock.

"I don't want to suffer any longer... I want it to finish very soon and to receive justice," he told the court.

Judge Koy Sao at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced the end of witness and evidentiary hearings, after more than 60 sessions. The court will begin hearing closing submissions from December 21 after parties submit their written arguments.

The 69-year-old has vehemently denied the charges. If convicted he faces up to 30 years in jail.

Arrested in 2017, Kem Sokha's party was dissolved ahead of widely criticised elections the following year -- leaving Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party to canter to victory virtually unopposed.

Critics say 70-year-old Hun Sen -- Asia's longest-serving leader -- has wound back democratic freedoms and used the courts to stifle opponents, jailing scores of opposition acitvists and human rights defenders.

In June, a Phnom Penh court convicted about 60 opposition figures -- including dual US-Cambodian citizen Theary Seng -- in a mass treason trial that rights groups have condemned as politically motivated.

Hun Sen has vowed to run for office again during a national election next year and has supported his eldest son Hun Manet to succeed him in the future.

© Agence France-Presse

Related Articles