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The court issued verdicts and sentences as an independent body, he says, a statement that the attorney representing the prisoners questions
PHNOM PENH--Cambodia’s Ministry of Justice on June 17 released a statement explaining the charges that led to former political opposition figures being condemned to imprisonment.
According to the statement of the Ministry of Justice Spokesman, Seng Chantheary and 42 activists were convicted of inciting and conspiracy because they were, the text read, “involved in leading, supporting and participating in the Nov. 9  event, which was an illegal plot to overthrow the legitimate government [upon] the return of Sam Rainsy in 2019.”
On June 14, 31 political figures and supporters of the former opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) were sentenced to jail in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on charges of plotting and incitement to create social unrest. They were part of a mass trial of 138 people, among whom 20 got five-year suspended terms.
According to the statement issued by the Ministry of Justice Spokesman, Seng Chantheary and 42 activists were convicted of inciting and conspiracy as they were, the text read, “involved in leading, supporting and participating in the Nov. 9  event, which was an illegal plot to overthrow the legitimate government [upon] the returns of Sam Rainsy in 2019.
“Sam Rainsy and his accomplices…incited and appealed to the armed forces and civil servants to rebellion against the Royal Government. Second, acts of incitement and calling on the people to rebellion against the government. Third, to conduct fundraising to [assemble] illegal forces to carry out the above activities.” Their goal, the spokesman’s statement read, was to arrest Prime Minister Hun Sen who holds a legitimate position, overthrow the legitimate government: “a coup attempt” by truly violent means.
In 2019, Rainsy announced that he would return to Cambodia on Nov. 9, the day the country celebrates as Independence Day. His plans came to an end when Thai Airways prevented him from boarding the plane for the flight to Cambodia.
In view of his intended return, the statement read, “[i]t is absolutely right that the Royal Government set out the necessary measures as an independent and sovereign state, those including the legal, political and diplomatic measures, which completely destroyed the plan to devastate Cambodia led by Sam Rainsy and his accomplices.”
Countries around the world should not support their plan, Ministry of Justice Spokesman said without giving specific details as to the alleged rebellion.
The “criminals” being charged with “plotting” under Article 453 of the Penal Code, the statement read, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Seng Chantheary and 42 other people of incitement and conspiracy to overthrow the government. “The decision comes after the court spent nearly three years investigating, gathering evidence and holding a hearing,” the statement read.
The Ministry of Justice Spokesman then stressed that this decision was “a decision of the court which is an independent power stated and guaranteed by the Constitution of Cambodia.”
“I have a short and simple reaction: The independence of the judicial court of Cambodia depends on the obvious implementation, not on what is written on papers,” said Choung Chou Ngy, the attorney representing most of the people sentenced on June 14 including lawyer and human rights activist Seng Theary. “The general people observing have clear intelligence and judgment,” he said. “Those who hold power try to shout about [judicial system] having independence. They can step on people’s heads and make people acknowledge independence.”
Theary is a Cambodian American lawyer who was affiliated with the CNRP. The United States and Germany have called for her release and that of other political figures and jailed CNRP supporters, describing the verdict and sentences as unjust.
Even though Choung Chou Ngy represents her as well as several former opposition-party members sentenced on June 14, he has not been allowed to see her. “On the evening of the 14th, I tried to meet her,” he said in interview on June 18. “However, the prison did not grant me permission to meet her. On Friday [June 17], I asked to meet her once more. But the prison official told me that she has been transported to Preah Vihear Province.
“What concerns me is the possibility of the prison in Preah Vihear not allowing me to meet her just like what they did in Phnom Penh, in Prey Sor,” Chou Ngy said. “So, on Monday [June 20], I plan to file a request with the director general at the Directorate General of Prisons at the Ministry of Interior. If he allows me to meet her, I will carry the letter of permission to the Preah Vihear prison.”