Rights groups in the United States condemn the sentence of 27 years of house arrest against the prominent Cambodian opposition leader.
Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha has been sentenced to 27 years in house arrest for treason.
Kem Sokha, who headed the now-banned Cambodian National Salvation Party, was arrested in a night raid in 2017 and charged with conspiring with foreign powers to overthrow the government of former leader Hun Sen.
Kem Sokha denied the allegations, while the United States and human rights organizations said the trial, which began three years after his arrest, was politically motivated.
Here are some reactions to the verdict:
Sam Rainsy, opposition leader in exile, ally of Kem Sokha in the CNRP
“It’s terrible for him. But what I can say is that Hun Sen believes he can face Western sanctions because he has China’s unconditional support.
“These allegations against Kem Sokha are baseless. Accusing him of wanting to overthrow the government with the support of the US is utterly ludicrous.
“I would like all democratic countries to condemn this conviction of Kem Sokha and warn Hun Sen that the next elections in Cambodia will not be considered legitimate if the charges against Kem Sokha are not dropped and if the opposition is not allowed… participate in the elections.”
Australian Embassy in Cambodia
“We are deeply disappointed by today’s decision to sentence Kem Sokha to 27 years of house arrest after pleading guilty to treason.
“Australia has consistently called for a fair and transparent resolution of the matter. Australian officials observed today’s hearing along with colleagues from other diplomatic missions.
Australia will continue dialogue with Cambodia to encourage political space for truly contentious elections and to support human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
US Embassy in Cambodia
“The United States is deeply troubled by the conviction of respected Cambodian political leader Kem Sokha.
“The multi-year process to silence Kem Sokha, based on a fabricated conspiracy, is a miscarriage of justice.
“Denying Kem Sokha and other political figures their freedom of expression and association undermines Cambodia’s Constitution, international commitments and previous progress to develop as a pluralistic and inclusive society.
“We call on the authorities to allow all Cambodians to enjoy their universal human rights of peaceful assembly and free expression and to participate in building a truly democratic system.”
Ming Yu Hah, Deputy Regional Director of Amnesty International
“The Cambodian justice system has again demonstrated its overwhelming independence by convicting Kem Sokha on baseless, politically motivated charges. Months before national elections, this verdict is an unmistakable warning to opposition groups. The use of the courts to harass Prime Minister Hun Sen’s opponents knows no bounds.
“Sokha is one of many opposition members who have endured a physical and psychological ordeal that will continue after today’s unjust verdict. There can be no right to a fair trial if the courts are co-opted by the heavy hand of the government.
“Sokha spent years in detention, going in and out of prison and under house arrest in an almost unceasing attempt to silence him. He is also not allowed to leave the country because of unnecessary restrictions on his freedom of movement. The Cambodian government must drop these trumped-up charges and release Kem Sokha immediately and unconditionally.”
Phil Robertson, Deputy Director for Asia, Human Rights Watch
“It was clear from the outset that the allegations against Kem Sokha were nothing but a politically motivated ploy by Prime Minister Hun Sen to sideline Cambodia’s leading opposition leader and eliminate the country’s democratic system.
“Sending Kem Sokha to prison is not only about destroying his political party, but also about destroying any hope that there can be a real general election in July.”