The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced former CNRP politician Kong Mas and three others, including acting party leader Sam Rainsy, to 18 to 20 months in prison for Mas’s Facebook posts last year urging an election boycott.
Only Mas was present at the court, with Rainsy and former lawmaker Ho Vann abroad and former Phnom Penh councilor Kak Komphea at large.
Presiding Judge Pich Vicheathor found the four guilty of incitement to commit felony and insulting the government.
During a previous hearing, the court heard that Mas had posted a plan to print leaflets calling on people to boycott the election because it “will not reflect the will of the people.”
Mas’s lawyer Sam Sokong told reporters that he would consider appealing the verdict.
Sokong also criticized the recent wave of charges laid against former members of the CNRP, saying the courts should summon suspects for questioning before issuing arrest warrants.
More than 30 former CNRP members have been arrested since acting party leader Sam Rainsy announced he would attempt to return to the country from exile on Nov. 9. Dozens of others have been charged but remain at large.
“Most of them are youths, commune and district councilors, supporters of CNRP,” Sokong said.
According to the Justice Ministry, police in Kandal province arrested Chhun Thai, Ly Mengkheang, Ly Pin and Phun Suphea in the past week. They were identified as former commune and district councilors.
According to the Kandal Provincial Court, all four men were charged with plotting because they were seen attending a meeting with Rainsy in Malaysia last month. The court alleged that CNRP leaders had ordered the attendees to stage a coup on Nov. 9.
Some former CNRP supporters have turned themselves in to police amid the mounting pressure, condemning Sam Rainsy and in two cases joining the ruling CPP.
Hou Yary and Lay Pichmony, former CNRP commune councilors in Battambang province, confessed to police on Wednesday last week.
Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier ordered authorities to publicly air confessions and condemnations of Rainsy as a way to suppress the coup attempt.
Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath said the government’s arrests of CNRP’s activists was an overreaction.
“I still do not believe that Sam Rainsy will come Cambodia on Nov. 9 because his stance is not clear,” Chanrath said.
“I think the government accusing those CNRP’s activists with plotting a coup is too strong,” he said.
National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said the government, including the Justice Ministry, had already announced to all people that if they support a rebel group against the government, police officials will arrest them.
“If they still conduct activities against the government, we will arrest them,” Lieutenant General Kim Khoeun said.