Cambodia jails American lawyer, 60 others for treason

STORY: A Cambodian court has handed down jail sentences to about 60 opposition figures for conspiring to commit treason and for incitement - including a prominent Cambodian-American lawyer.

The mass trial has been widely condemned by the United States and rights groups as politically motivated.

The case has involved more than 100 people affiliated with the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

The CNRP was banned and its leader Kem Sokha arrested before the country's 2018 election, allowing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party to win every parliamentary seat, prompting international concern.

The charges against Kem Sokha stem from accusations he conspired with the United States to overthrow Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 37 years. Kem Sokha and Washington reject the accusations.

Among those sentenced, American-Cambodian lawyer and human rights’ activist Theary Seng, who arrived in court on Tuesday (June 14) dressed as the Statue of Liberty with a symbolic chain around her.

“It follows the logic of this autocratic regime to find me guilty. But I am Freedom today, I am Lady Liberty, so it won't just be me, Theary Seng, who will be found guilty but all the Cambodians who love justice, who love freedom, who are genuine democrats, who will be found guilty along with us. This autocratic regime is suppressing the Cambodian people, it is suppressing freedom, it is persecuting Cambodian for their political opinions."

A Reuters witness said Seng had not been allowed to appear in court in Phnom Penh due to her attire.

Theary Seng’s lawyer Choung Choungy told reporters the court had sentenced her to six years in jail and ordered her arrest.

“This verdict is not fair, it's unjust for her. It is unjust for her, that was why she was protesting for the solution, but the court did not give the solution, but punished her and jailed her instead.”

Her lawyer said she would consider appealing, noting she and the other co-defendants had been sentenced to between five to eight years in prison.

The verdicts are likely to renew international concern about Hun Sen, and what his critics say has been elimination, over many years, of opposition to his rule.

Hun Sen denies persecuting his opponents.

Human Rights Watch urged foreign governments, the United Nations, and aid donors to press Cambodia to quash the convictions and end a broad attack on the country's remaining civic and democratic space.