Yorm Bopha walks to supreme court room.
March 27, 2013 - LICADHO, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT),
Equitable Cambodia (EC), and Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC) express
their deep disappointment at the Supreme Court's failure to release Boeung Kak
land rights activist Yorm Bopha on bail. Bopha's request was heard this morning
by the Supreme Court, while some 100 community activists from Boeung Kak and
other communities under threat of eviction rallied outside. Bopha's young son
and her husband Lous Sakorn were also among the crowd.
Although the hearing itself finished at around 9am, the
crowd waited until almost midday in sweltering heat for the ruling. The Supreme
Court then denied bail, citing the seriousness of Bopha's conviction and the
lack of evidence of health problems.
The Supreme Court's ruling comes as no surprise. Just over a
week before Bopha's appearance at the Court, Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly
stated in a televised speech that her case had nothing to do with land issues
and that she instead had acted "violently and unjustly in the eyes of the
government". In a judicial system renowned for its political obedience, it's
impossible to see the Prime Minister's comment as harmless.
Bopha has now spent 204 days in jail since her initial
detention in early September 2012. On December 27, 2012, she was sentenced to
three years' imprisonment on the trumped up charge of intentional violence with
aggravating circumstances following a trial in which no incriminating evidence
was provided against Bopha.
"Bopha is not the one to have acted unjustly here," said
Eang Vuthy, Representative of Equitable Cambodia. "Back at the Municipal Court
in December 2012, no testimony was presented in support of her guilt. Not a
single witness, whether from the prosecution or the defence, at any point stated
Bopha had engaged in violent actions. The victims' witnesses provided
inconsistent and doubtful testimonies, while the defense witnesses' testimonies
were convincible but simply ignored."
"The procedural and substantive flaws in Bopha's original
trial were so dramatic, so blatant, that it's impossible to conclude that this
conviction isn't politically motivated," said LICADHO Director Naly Pilorge. "How else do you explain a conviction for 'intentional violence' against a
person who never laid a finger on anyone?"
Following reports of the ruling, the crowd outside expressed
their anger by burning a scale of justice replica, before marching to the Royal
Palace to call for the Cambodian King to intervene in the case.
"Releasing Bopha on bail would have been the right thing to
do," said Ee Sarom, Programme Coordinator at STT. "She's the mother of a young
child and the wife of a man who, following a recent beating by the police, is
now unable to work. More than anything however, all the evidence points to that
she is innocent and that her continued imprisonment is a form of legal
persecution due to her land rights activism."
The denial of bail for Bopha comes just a week before her
fellow Boeung Kak community activist Tep Vanny is due to be honored by US Vice
President Joe Biden and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in
Washington, DC. She is one of five honorees to receive the 2013 Global
Leadership Award conferred by the organization Vital Voice. Vanny will take the
stage on April 2 together with other human rights luminaries including
Pakistan's Malala Yousafsai and Brazil's Sandra Gomes Melo.
LICADHO, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, Equitable Cambodia, and
Community Legal Education Centre call on the judiciary to set the date for Yorm
Bopha's hearing at the Appeal Court, and an end to political interference in
this case, and more generally the court system.
For more information, please contacts:
Ee Sarom, Programmes Coordinator at Sahmakum Teang Tnaut,
+855 12 836 533
Am Sam Ath, Technical Supervisor at LICADHO, +855 12 327 770
Eang Vuthy, Representative of Equitable Cambodia, +855 12
Moeun Tola, Head of Labour Program at CLEC, +855 66 777 056
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