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Former Cambodian Opposition Leader to Remain in Prison

FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2018, file photo, former opposition leader Kem Sokha sits at the appeals court during the hearing of a bail application, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Cambodian Former Opposition Leader to Remain in Prison
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A court in Cambodia on Thursday extended by six months the pre-trial detention of Kem Sokha, the former leader of the country’s main opposition party.

Sokha has already been detained for almost a year.

His supporters had hoped Sokha would soon be released, especially following the pardoning and release of 14 opposition activists earlier this week.

One of Sokha’s lawyers said the court ruled in a closed-door hearing that Sokha’s continued detention was necessary for national security.

Sokha was the leader of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). He was arrested last year and charged with treason. His party was dissolved last November.

Sokha is accused of leading a plan to destroy the government in a US-backed revolution.

In last month’s elections, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 seats in the National Assembly, extending its 33-year hold on power.

Hun Sen said Wednesday of Sokha’s case, “What is there to be pardoned? This is the case of treason.”

Hun Sen, however, had asked for pardons for several other jailed opposition activists. Meach Sovannara, the former head of information and media for the CNRP, was among the 14 freed earlier this week. He had been given a 20-year sentence for making a speech at an opposition rally in 2015.

Sovannara has said he will return to politics. He remains hopeful that a multi-party democracy can be restored in Cambodia.

Political expert Meas Nee told VOA that he believes the government is unsure of what to do with Sokha. If they release him, he could rebuild his party. If they find him guilty, the United States will likely place economic sanctions on Cambodia.

The main piece of evidence against Sokha is a 2013 speech in which he said he had received U.S. support and help for his political plans.

I’m Caty Weaver.

VOA’s David Boyle reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

dissolve – v. to officially end something

multi - many, much