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Lawmaker convicted of defamation files appeal with Supreme Court

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Cambodian opposition legislator Mu Sochua filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on 10 November 2009 against her conviction of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, media reports said.

In August, a municipal court found Mu Sochua guilty of defamation and ordered her to pay 6.5 million riels (approx. US$3,960) in fines and compensation. On 28 October, the Court of Appeal upheld this decision.

The "Phnom Penh Post" quoted the lawmaker as saying that she would rather serve a jail sentence than pay the fine.

"I'm not going to pay the fine," she had said after the Court of Appeal ruling was announced. "I'm just giving the courts of Cambodia another chance to prove that they can do their job."

In a statement sent to SEAPA, Mo Sochua said she is prepared to face imprisonment in defiance of the court decision.

In April Mu Sochua sued Prime Minister Hun Sen for defamation after claiming that the premier had uttered a derogatory statement against her during a press conference.

A few days later, the prime minister filed a counter-suit against the opposition lawmaker and her lawyer, Kong Sam Onn.

Administration legislators then suspended the parliamentary immunity of Mu Sochua and another Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker.

Threatened with the defamation lawsuit and disbarment, lawyer Kong Sam Onn was later forced to defect to the administration party in return for the dropping of charges against him.

The Sam Rainsy Party described the Mo Sochua case as "a mockery of justice", as the lawmaker was forced to go on with her trial without a lawyer.

Her lawsuit, however, was dismissed by the Appeal Court on 14 October, whereas Prime Minister Hun Sen's proceeded.

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