World Bulletin / News Desk
Ny Chakrya, a former staffer at local rights group Adhoc, has been in pre-trial detention ever since May, when he and four other Adhoc staffers were accused of bribery after they provided assistance to the mistress of an opposition official.
Thursday’s verdict centered on a separate defamation charge handed down last year after Chakrya accused officials at the Siem Reap provincial court of corruption, and claiming that two villagers involved in a land dispute had been unjustly arrested.
Sejin Kim, program officer of Forum Asia’s human rights defenders program, was monitoring the verdict at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday.
She said in a statement to Anadolu Agency that the decision “certifies that there is no place for dissent in Cambodia, where human rights defenders can be persecuted for doing their legitimate work”.
She said the sentence, along with the jailing of the four other human rights defenders and the July assassination of government critic Kem Ley would have a “chilling effect on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in the country”.
Political analyst Ou Virak told Anadolu Agency that Thursday’s verdict would set a new and worrying precedent in Cambodia, because “it’s the first case where criticism of the court is prosecuted as a crime.”
Chakrya’s jailing and yet-to-be-heard bribery trial are also seen as “huge setbacks for the credibility of the NEC”, which is tasked with handling the country’s elections.