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Cambodia court rejects opposition leader's final appeal

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy [party profile; JURIST news archive] lost his final appeal to the Cambodian Supreme Court on Wednesday for charges [JURIST report] of intentionally destroying posts marking the border between Cambodia and Vietnam and inciting racial discrimination through that act. The ruling upheld the conviction in absentia due to Rainsy self-imposed exile since 2005. At the hearing, Rainsy's representative read a statement [Phnom Penh Post report] where Rainsy declared the issue political, not penal. The court was unconvinced, declaring there was enough evidence against Rainsey [Phnom Penh Post report], and that he intentionally incited racial discrimination. In reaction to his conviction, an e-mail from Rainsy stated: "I am sure the government will show a minimum of consistency by dropping its ridiculous complaint against me and by stopping blatantly using the politically subservient court in trying to silence me." Rainsy also released an open letter [text] to the Cambodian government on the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) [party website] the day of the deliberation.

Rainsy was sentenced [JURIST report] in absentia in September to 10 years in prison for charges of forging and disseminating a false map [JURIST report] of the Cambodia-Vietnam border on his political party's website. The map [document, PDF], posted on the SRP website, shows an area along the border of the two countries in which Rainsy alleges the Vietnamese government tampered with four border posts, placing them further into Cambodian territory than UN, US Army, Google and French colonial maps specify. The Cambodian government has never released an official map of the country, although they promised to release one in 2012. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called [press release] the closed-door trial of Sam Rainsy and two villagers a "farce," saying the ruling demonstrates the government's control over the country's judiciary. In 2006, Rainsy received a royal pardon for a 2005 defamation conviction.

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