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Cambodia PM defends defamation lawsuits against rights activists

[JURIST] Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen [BBC profile] on Wednesday defended his use of criminal defamation lawsuits to silence critics of his ruling Cambodian People's Party [party website], claiming the lawsuits were in response to unjust accusations. The US and other countries have voiced opposition to the arrests [JURIST report] for defamation of Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) [advocacy website], CCHR radio director Pa Ngoun Teang, and Yeng Virak, Director of the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC) [advocacy website]. Hun Sen claims the he is the victim and that the arrests were carried out "completely in accordance with the rule of law and of the courts" of Cambodia. Defamation is punishable by up to a year in jail and defendants can also serve 6 months in pre-trial detention. Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy [party profile] fled Cambodia in February 2005 after his parliamentary immunity was revoked [JURIST report]. He was sentenced in absentia to 18 months in jail in December 2005 for defamation after accusing the prime minister of backing a 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally that killed 16 people. Rainsy has said that he will seek a royal pardon [JURIST report] rather than appeal his sentence. Reuters has more.

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