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Imprisoned Cambodian journalist, rights defender refused bail

(CCHR/IFEX) - Phnom Penh, 14 December 2012 - The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) expresses grave disappointment at today's Appeal Court decision to refuse bail to imprisoned journalist and human rights defender, Mam Sonando.

The Appeal Court in Phnom Penh today denied bail to journalist and human rights defender Mam Sonando, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on 1 October 2012 on charges of instigating an insurrection and incitement to take up arms against the state. Due to the lack of concrete evidence to merit such a conviction, the guilty verdict has been widely criticized both nationally and internationally as political.

Mam Sonando filed for appeal of the verdict on 12 October 2012 but the Municipal Court failed to send the case file to the Appeal Court within the ten days required by law, hence delaying proceedings. Mam Sonando's lawyer, Sar Sovan, submitted the bail motion to the Appeal Court on behalf of his client, on 5 December 2012. The request was made under Articles 306 and 307 of the Criminal Code of Procedure 2007.

Despite 71-year-old Mam Sonando's deteriorating health and advanced years, the court decided that he should be refused bail on the grounds that his temporary release, even under house arrest, would threaten social order, would be unacceptable due to the seriousness of the case and the length of the sentence, and would put the witnesses who testified against him in danger of harassment.

CCHR President Ou Virak comments:

"I am sorely disappointed by the Appeal Court decision today; not only for Mam Sonando and his family, who have suffered immensely due to his unjust imprisonment, but also due to the broader implications of the decision pertaining to the corrupt judiciary and the deteriorating situation of human rights in Cambodia. Despite more than 20 years of fearless human rights activism in the country since the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, justice, democracy and rule of law are still out of reach for the Cambodian people."

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