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Sign petition to free Mam Sonando, imprisoned Cambodian journalist

Mam Sonando gestures during his arrival at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh on 14 December 2012
Mam Sonando gestures during his arrival at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh on 14 December 2012

REUTERS/Pring Samrang

Sign this petition started by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) calling on the Cambodian government to overturn the 20-year prison sentence handed down to prominent journalist and human rights defender Mam Sonando and immediately and unconditionally release him.

On 1 October 2012, Mr. Sonando, who is 71 years old, was found guilty 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 criticised both nationally and internationally as political.

Despite Mam Sonando's deteriorating health and advanced years, on 14 December 2012 the Appeal Court in Phnon Penh denied him 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 commented on the day of the appeal:

"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."

Join CCHR and sign the petition calling for Mam Sonando's release.

BACKGROUND:

On 1 October 2012, Mam Sonando, director of Beehive radio and President of the Democratic Association, was found guilty by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of all charges brought against him, including alleged instigation of a secessionist movement in Kratie province, in the east of Cambodia, and incitement to take up arms. At 71 years of age, the prominent human rights defender has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment - essentially a death sentence for a man of his age - despite the distinct lack of evidence against him.

The alleged secessionist movement in Kratie involved a dispute over 15,000 hectares (approx. 37,000 acres) of land farmed by villagers, that was granted to a private company. On 16 May 2012 armed police violently confronted the villagers or “secessionists” who were defending their land rights. When police opened fire they tragically killed a 14-year-old girl.

Arrested on 15 July 2012, Mam Sonando was held in detention in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison while awaiting trial, where he suffered from deteriorating health due to sub-standard conditions. His arrest and subsequent conviction are believed to be linked to a broadcast made on Beehive radio on 25 June, accusing the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) of crimes against humanity. The Prime Minister called for his arrest the following day, highlighting the political motivation behind the case, which is yet another attempt by the RGC to intimidate human rights defenders and to stifle free speech.

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