Cambodia’s Appeal Court on Friday released on bail three opposition youth leaders detained for their alleged role in a violent protest in July, a lawyer for the trio said, as a rights group decried the case against them as “politically motivated.”
Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) youth leaders Khin Chamreun, Neang Sokhun, and San Kinheng were detained earlier this month pending trial on insurrection charges linked to a July 15 protest by party supporters pushing for the reopening of Freedom Park in the capital Phnom Penh.
On Friday, Judge Seng Sivutha granted the three men bail from Prey Sar Prison on several conditions, defense lawyer Sam Sok Kong told RFA’s Khmer Service following the closed door hearing.
“The conditions are that [the defendants] cannot leave the country, cannot change their place of residence, must appear in court when summoned, and must deposit 30 million riel (U.S. $7,500),” Sam Sok Kong said.
The defense and civil society groups said that the bail required of the three youth leaders was too high for the charges they face.
Last month, seven CNRP lawmakers and a party member were imprisoned for a week on nearly similar charges following their presence at the July 15 protest and denied access to their families.
The seven were freed following a political deal between CNRP leader Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen in which the opposition party ended its boycott of parliament over disputed July polls in return for electoral reforms.
Following the deal, the government also reopened Freedom Park, the only place that protests were allowed before it was closed to the public in January.
CNRP lawmaker Ho Van welcomed Friday’s court ruling.
“Now the three youths are freed. Other CNRP youth members are being summoned [over the July protest], but this is only a procedural formality,” he said.
“We hope that the issue will be resolved soon.”
Ny Chakriya, chief investigator for local rights group Adhoc, told RFA that the continued case against the youth leaders was “politically motivated” and that the court should drop all charges.
“Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen have already agreed to end the political deadlock, so the court should put an end to this,” he said.
Earlier this week, local rights group LICADHO criticized the Cambodian authorities for not allowing the families of the three youth leaders to visit them in Prey Sar Prison, saying denial of family visits during their detention since Aug. 2 was a violation of basic rights.
On Friday, Gnow Pheourng, mother of Neang Sokhun, said that despite being denied the right to see her son since his arrest, his imprisonment “has not intimidated me.”
“Instead, it has made me want to further encourage him to become involved in politics to protect the interests of the nation,” she said.
She questioned what her son had done wrong for the court to bring a case against him.
“My son was at school when they [arrested] him without any cause,” she said.
“I hope that people will consider this [during his case].”
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.