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CAMBODIA NEWS - OPCC STRONGLY CONDEMNS CONVICTION OF MAM SONANDO

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen proved that politics and football do mix - Daffy123 (talk) photo

 

 

 

Thirteen other defendants were jailed for between 10 months and 30 years on related charges following a violent land eviction in north-eastern Kratie province in May during which security forces shot dead a teenage girl

 

 

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - (Overseas Press Club of Cambodia)

Wednesday October 03, 2012

The Overseas Press Club of Cambodia strongly condemns today's (Monday October 01, 2012) conviction for secession against Mr Mam Sonando, the owner of independent broadcaster Beehive Radio. The 20-year jail term means Mam Sonando, who is 71, will likely die in jail unless a higher court rules to release him.

Thirteen other defendants were jailed for between 10 months and 30 years on related charges following a violent land eviction in north-eastern Kratie province in May during which security forces shot dead a teenage girl.

Rights groups have repeatedly derided the authorities' statements of an attempt at secession, and legal experts said no evidence was presented to link Mam Sonando to the alleged secessionist movement or to prove such a movement even exists. Trial monitors condemned the verdict outright. The OPCC has seen nothing to doubt any of these conclusions.

The OPCC also notes with grave concern that Prime Minister Hun Sen's call in June for MamSonando's arrest came shortly after Beehive Radio broadcast a report that a Cambodian advocacy group had requested an investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In their submission the group accused Cambodian officials of crimes against humanity in relation to the ongoing land-grabbing crisis.

Reporting on such stories is a basic function of the media, and the OPCC is deeply concerned that prosecutors appear to have used spurious charges to crack down on independent media ahead of next year's general election.

"Mam Sonando's detention and imprisonment mark a significant moment in the environment for media freedoms in Cambodia," said OPCC President Robert Carmichael. "It is hard to escape the conclusion that these charges against Cambodia's most prominent independent broadcaster are designed to muzzle the media from carrying out its function, which is to inform the citizenry about issues of concern."

Mam Sonando, an outspoken government critic, has twice before been jailed on charges related to freedom of expression. Should Mam Sonando choose to appeal this verdict, the OPCC urges the judiciary to expedite that hearing.

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