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PHNOM PENH: A prominent critic of Cambodia’s government was sentenced to 20 years in prison yesterday for an alleged secessionist plot, dismaying rights campaigners who decried the verdict as politically motivated.
Radio station owner Mam Sonando was also fined 10m riel ($2,500) by a Phnom Penh court which convicted him on charges including insurrection and inciting people to take up arms against the state.
He is considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience.
The 71-year-old, who was arrested in July, was accused of involvement in an alleged plot to establish an autonomous region in eastern Kratie province.
Rights groups have called the accusations baseless and said the government was seeking to justify its harsh crackdown on a land dispute there in May, when a teenage girl was shot dead by security forces clashing with demonstrators.
“Our court has announced a verdict that is politically motivated,” the president of theCambodian Centre for Human Rights, Ou Virak, said. “There’s no evidence that Mam Sonando has committed these offences.”
Amnesty International researcher Rupert Abbott called the verdict “absolutely outrageous”.
Sonando, who heads the campaign group the Association of Democrats, was jailed for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, Abbott said.