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HomeWorld NewsCambodian court jails American lawyer, dozens of others for treason

Cambodian court jails American lawyer, dozens of others for treason

After conducting a mass trial denounced by not only the US but also rights groups claiming the prosecution was politically motivated, a Court in Cambodia handed out approximately 60 sentences, including well-known human rights lawyer Theary Seng for conspiring to commit treason. 

Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer, and human rights activist, was among over 100 people affiliated with the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) charged with treason and incitement. The trial followed 2019 failed attempt to allow the past dictator to come out of exile. It is the latest attempt to quell any criticism of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s long-running dictatorship.

Seng would attend court wearing various costumes to signify that she believes Cambodia is not a democratic country and that the trial is unjust. For her final costume, Seng dressed as Lady Liberty, with the word “freedom” on her crown as she cried, “release the political prisoners,” while raising an imitation torch.

Cambodian authorities allege that the 60 accused were engaged in helping Sam Rainsy, which Theary Seng and the others continue to deny. Sam Rainsy is a former opposition leader in Cambodia who is now serving as a leader in Cambodia National Rescue due to the continued ban on political activity by the party’s leader, Kem Sokha. Cambodian authorities have barred Sam Rainsy’s return.

The court in Phnom Penh sentenced Theary Seng to six years in jail, while others received sentences between five and eight years. Ready to take a stand in a battle she had already lost, Seng showed up to court dressed as Lady Liberty, expecting to be found guilty. She said she wanted her arrest to be public and ‘not in the shadow.’ Upon her arrest, Seng was bundled into a police pickup truck, accelerating minor altercations between officers and her supporters.

Cambodian courts are widely believed to be under the influence of Hun Sen, whose authoritarian style of rule has kept him in power for 37 years. His main competitor, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, run by Rainsy, was abolished by court order just before national elections in 2018, which were won by Hun Sen’s Cambodia People’s Party by a landslide.

It was unclear how many defendants made it to their sentencing hearing as many fled into exile or went into hiding. 



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