The Appeal Court on Thursday reduced the prison term of a disabled opposition activist jailed for insulting Prime Minister Hun Sen on Facebook, with his release expected on Friday or Saturday.
Phun Yuth, 35, was arrested on July 19 in Siem Reap on charges of incitement to discriminate and public insult for Facebook posts he made in May and June accusing Hun Sen of being a traitor. He was sentenced to a year and six months in jail by the provincial court on October 31.
On Thursday, Presiding Judge Yet Molin said Yuth had recognized his mistakes and pledged to stop committing any crimes. He was also disabled and his family had no one else who could earn an income, she said.
Judge Molin said she agreed with the provincial court’s October verdict but not its sentencing.
“On the point of the sentence, we need to change some points: Sentence Phun Yuth to one year and six months, but order him to serve only five months and eight days of his prison sentence and suspend the rest,” she said.
Yuth told the courtroom that he had suffered from polio since birth, and vowed to the judges that he would not insult the prime minister once he left prison.
“I accept my mistake and I ask the court to reduce my sentence or acquit me because my family does not have anyone to find the money to support them,” Yuth said.“I have a 6-year-old child and my wife is also a disabled person.”
Sam Titseyha, Yuth’s lawyer, said he welcomed the decision and noted that five months and eight days since Yuth’s arrest on July 19 was Thursday.
Once the court’s decision was finalized and put to paper, Yuth should be released, he said.
“He can leave from the prison on Friday or Saturday,” Titseyha said.
Soeng Senkaruna, spokesman for human rights group Adhoc, said the Siem Reap Provincial Court should have been more lenient in its treatment of Yuth considering his disabilities.
“What I regret is that the Siem Reap Provincial Court sentenced Phun Yuth to jail and the court did not allow him bail, because he is disable man,” Senkaruna said. “I think that this is an improper act against disabled people.”
He also said that citizens should be free to criticize their leaders. However, he appealed to Cambodians to be careful on social media considering the way the government has been enforcing the law on public insults.