Cambodian court jails US lawyer and dozens more for treason

A Cambodian court on Tuesday handed prison sentences to some 60 opposition figures, including prominent lawyer Theary Seng, for conspiracy to commit treason, in a mass trial condemned by the United States and advocacy groups as politically motivated. Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer and human rights activist, was among more than 100 people affiliated with the disbanded Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) charged with treason and incitement.

The Phnom Penh court sentenced Theary Seng to six years in prison and ordered his arrest, his lawyer told reporters. “It is not acceptable and I will meet her in prison to discuss an appeal,” lawyer Chuong Choungy told the court, noting that she was among about 60 co-defendants sentenced to sentences ranging from five to eight years in prison.

Theary Seng had arrived in court dressed as a Statue of Liberty with a symbolic chain around her and saying she expected to be found guilty. After the verdict, she was loaded into a police van after the verdict, causing scuffles between officers and her supporters.

The verdicts are likely to reignite international concern over Cambodia’s veteran prime minister, Hun Sen, and what his critics say has been the elimination, over many years, of opposition to his rule. Hun Sen denies persecuting his opponents. U.S. Embassy spokesman Chad Roedemeier said the United States was “deeply troubled by today’s unjust verdicts.”

“The United States has consistently called on Cambodian authorities to end politically motivated trials, including against U.S. citizen Seng Theary and other human rights defenders, political opposition members, journalists, and labor and environmental activists,” Roedemeier told Reuters. ‘AUTOCRATIC’

The court sentenced veteran opposition leader Sam Rainsy, a former finance minister and CNRP leader who lives in exile in France, to eight years in prison in absentia. Before her arrest, Theary Seng spoke about the verdict she was waiting for, saying it would apply to all Cambodians who “love justice, who love freedom, who are true democrats”.

“It follows the logic of this autocratic regime to convict me,” she told reporters. Hun Sen ruled Cambodia for 37 years. He rose to prominence in the 1980s, after the defeat of the Khmer Rouge “killing fields” regime, and consolidated his grip on power in the 1990s.

The CNRP was banned and its leader Kem Sokha was arrested ahead of the 2018 general election, allowing Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party to win all parliamentary seats and sparking international outrage. The charges against Kem Sokha stem from accusations that he conspired with the United States to overthrow Hun Sen. Kem Sokha and the United States deny the charges.

Human Rights Watch has urged foreign governments, the United Nations, and donors to pressure Cambodia to overturn the convictions and end a broad attack on the country’s remaining civic and democratic space.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)