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Cambodian activist temporarily released, call for prompt review of her case

Yorm Bopha's supporters gather outside the Supreme Court, 22 November 2013
Yorm Bopha's supporters gather outside the Supreme Court, 22 November 2013

CCHR

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court, handed down on 22 November 2013, to temporarily release land rights activist Yorm Bopha pending the re-hearing of her case by the Court of Appeal.

Yorm Bopha was convicted on 27 December 2012 and sentenced to three years in prison on charges of "intentional violence with aggravating circumstances" under Article 218 of the Cambodian Criminal Code after she allegedly ordered an attack on two motorbike taxi drivers who she did not even know. In June 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled that Yorm Bopha was not a direct perpetrator of the assault but the instigator behind it, and reduced her sentence to two years.

The 22 November hearing at the Supreme Court saw Yorm Bopha's defense lawyers pick to pieces any apparent evidence used to convict Yorm Bopha, demonstrating quite clearly that the charges against the land rights activist are bogus. CCHR and OMCT have consistently criticized the conviction of Yorm Bopha and in June 2013 CCHR released a detailed legal analysis of her charging and sentencing at the Phnom Penh Court of First Instance. The lack of legal basis for Yorm Bopha's conviction has lead to the widespread belief that the case against her was fabricated in order to silence the activist, who has played a prominent role in her community's struggle against land grabbing and forced evictions in the Boeng Kak area of Phnom Penh.

Yorm Bopha has already spent 444 days in prison for a crime that she did not commit. The Court of Appeal must act independently to immediately review the case, schedule a new hearing for Yorm Bopha and finally secure her freedom.

According to CCHR President Ou Virak: "It has been clear from the very beginning of this case that Yorm Bopha has been targeted for her activism in the context of the Boeng Kak community's struggle for their rights. While [the 22 November] decision to temporarily release Bopha from jail is a welcome step, we must urge the Appeal Court to act quickly and to put an end to the suffering of Bopha and her family once and for all."

"We are relieved about Yorm Bopha's conditional release after more than a year of detention that we believe was arbitrary. We urge the Court of Appeal to schedule a new hearing quickly and to release her unconditionally," added OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

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