A Cambodian appeals court on Wednesday upheld embattled Cambodian election official Ny Chakrya’s conviction for defaming two court officials in 2015 when he worked for a human rights organization.
Appeals court judge Plang Samnang spent about three minutes on the case when he announced his decision. He gave no reason for upholding the conviction.
Siem Reap province investigating judge Ky Rithy and deputy prosecutor Sok Keo Bandith sued Ny Chakrya in 2015 alleging that he defamed them during a press conference over a land dispute.
At the time, he was head of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association’s (ADHOC) human rights section.
Media outlets quoted Ny Chakrya as saying the officials wrongly detained two citizens in the dispute. He was also blamed for accusing the officials of plotting to grab land for the Vietnamese community. He was sentenced to six months of imprisonment and 6 million riles (U.S. $1500) in fine.
Ny Chakrya denied the accusations, and his attorney told RFA’s Khmer Service that they would review the verdict before deciding on an appeal to Cambodia’s Supreme Court.
“The decision was pronounced without the reasoning,” said attorney Sam Sokong. “Hopefully a full verdict will be made available to us by next week. We will then review it to see it is proper.”
Ny Chakrya is among five people being held in the government’s probe of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha’s alleged affair.
On May 2, Cambodian authorities arrested Ny Chakrya, who became National Election Committee (NEC) Deputy Secretary-General in January, and four ADHOC employees for allegedly attempting to pay hush money to Kem Sokha’s purported mistress.
‘Flawed and unfair’
While Kem Sokha and a local Cambodia National Rescue Party official were granted royal pardons in the case against the CNRP leader, the other people accused in the case remain in prison. The pardons came after Prime Minister Hun Sen, who heads the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, asked the King Norodom Sihamoni to issue them.
The recent pair of pardons has raised hope that Ny Chakrya and the four ADHOC officials accused of attempting to pay hush money to Kem Sokha’s alleged mistress will also receive a pardon.
A group of 14 civil society organizations condemned Ny Chakrya’s conviction on Wednesday, saying in a statement that it was ‘flawed and unfair.”
“If Mr. Ny Chakrya’s conviction becomes final, he will be removed from his position at the NEC, a development that would seriously call into question whether the upcoming elections could be considered free, fair and legitimate,” the groups wrote.
Cambodia’s local elections are set for 2017 and the national elections are scheduled for 2018.
While the CPP still controls the National Assembly, the CNRP gained 55 seats in the 2013 election that was marred by accusations of fraud.
Cambodians are using a new digital voter registration system that is designed to combat those allegations.
The new system is part of a 2014 election reform deal between the CPP and opposition CNRP that ended almost a year of deadlock following the 2013 ballot.
Reported by Samnang Rann for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.