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Upholding of Cambodian rights defender's conviction blow to human rights and justice

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) is outraged by the 14 June 2013 decision by the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh, to uphold the bogus conviction of housing rights activist, Yorm Bopha. Despite a stark lack of evidence to warrant a case against her, Yorm Bopha was found guilty of “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” on 27 December 2012. Although the Court of Appeal reduced Yorm's Bopha's sentence to two years, on the grounds that she did not directly commit violence, she was taken back to prison on the evening of 14 June after the decision, where she will serve the rest of her sentence - fifteen months.

The charge against Yorm Bopha is related to allegations that she ordered her brothers to assault two motorbike taxi drivers near her home on 7 August 2012. The whereabouts of Yorm Bopha''s brothers is unknown; they were found guilty of intentional violence in absentia despite not having lived in Phnom Penh for several years. As with the trial, much of the so-called evidence produced at the appeal stage was based on the testimony of the two alleged victims - civil parties to the case who sat in the court room the whole time, who were not required to swear an oath and who stood to gain considerable compensation pending a guilty verdict. The accounts of the alleged victims were often convoluted and did not corroborate. In addition they had been drinking for several hours prior to the alleged violence taking place. The prosecution witnesses, one of whom was the father of one of the alleged victims, continually changed their stories and contradicted one another.

If the Court of Appeal had acted independently, without political interference and had based its decision purely on fact and law, Yorm Bopha would have walked free on 14 June.

CCHR President Ou Virak comments:

“Yorm Bopha's hearing at the Appeal Court [on 14 June] confirmed the lack of evidence to warrant a case against her. She is obviously the victim of an official campaign to silence human rights defenders and the upholding of her conviction in such an unreasonable and outrageous manner serves as a warning to other human rights defenders who dare to speak out. I am deeply disappointed at yesterday's verdict, which marks another crippling blow to human rights, justice and rule of law in Cambodia.”

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