Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Kem Sokha’s Lawyers Appeal Treason Conviction

Kem Sokha, former president of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, leaves his home in Tuol Kork district on March 3, 2023 to hear the verdict of his nearly three year treason trial announced at the Phnom Penh Municipality Court. CamboJA/Pring Samrang
Kem Sokha, former president of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, leaves his home in Tuol Kork district on March 3, 2023 to hear the verdict of his nearly three year treason trial announced at the Phnom Penh Municipality Court. CamboJA/Pring Samrang

Ex-opposition leader Kem Sokha submitted an appeal on Thursday against the Phnom Penh Municipal court’s treason conviction.

Meng Sopheary, one of Sokha’s lawyers, confirmed that the file had been submitted on March 30. However, she said the schedule for the hearing has not been set yet. 

“It depends on the court, and the court’s procedure,”​she said, adding that so far, no further evidence had been presented in the appeal.

In the municipal court’s March 3 verdict, Sokha was banned from politics for life, sentenced to 27 years in home confinement and barred from speaking or communicating with anyone besides relatives without the court’s permission. Sokha’s lawyers were allegedly blocked from meeting with him earlier in March.

The court’s verdict and hefty sentencing was condemned by human rights groups and western governments as politically motivated and lacking in substantive evidence from the prosecution. Prosecutors argued Sokha, the former president of the CNRP opposition party dissolved by the Supreme Court in 2017, had been an agent in a so-called color revolution supported by unspecified foreign powers.

“His trial, built on a fabricated conspiracy, was a miscarriage of justice,” U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy wrote on Twitter the day of the verdict.

“Evidence was already in the case, and if we have new evidence, we will submit it,” said Sokha’s lawyer, Sopheary. “Whether to add additional evidence or not, we need to discuss with the client as well.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Y Rin confirmed that the court had received the filing, saying that the case may be sent to the appeals court within the week. 

“We are still preparing because we have a lot of documents but it will not take long,” he said.

Sokha’s trial, delayed by the pandemic, lasted more than three years and encompassed 66 hearings. 

On March 13, the EU Parliament passed a resolution calling for the release of Sokha and other political prisoners in the run-up to Cambodia’s July national elections, warning that targeted sanctions and further withdrawal of trade preferences could soon follow.

Phnom Penh Appeals Court spokesperson, Plang Samang, said that an appeal would take between one to two months to process after receiving from the lower court. 

“It depends on the judge, if they do not have any other cases, the appeals hearing process [for Kem Sokha] will be fast,” he said.

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