[JURIST] A Cambodian court on Friday sentenced 13 men, all members of the self-styled Khmer National Liberation Front [official website], to prison for plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen’s [JURIST news archive] government. The government accused the men of plotting insurrection and “opposing the nation” by calling for Sen’s removal, primarily through anti-government leaflets and internet postings. While the defendants denied their guilt and endorsement of violence in the one-day trial, the judge held that the group’s organizational documents were sufficient evidence for conviction. The prison terms range from five to nine years. Seven of the defendants, who were arrested in Thailand in 2013 and subsequently deported to Cambodia, received their conviction in court, while six others were sentenced in absentia. A lawyer for the defendants has already announced his plans to appeal.
The political atmosphere in Cambodia has been tense since last year’s elections, resulting in a crackdown on protesters. A Cambodian appeals court in February refused the release [JURIST report] of 21 people arrested in January in connection with anti-government protests, a series of demonstrations comprised mostly of garment workers and rights activists. Also in January the International Labour Organization (ILO) [official website] called for cooperation amongst all parties involved in escalating violence in Cambodia, demanding a release of detained union strikers and a government probe into anti-protest police tactics [JURIST report]. Earlier that month the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged [JURIST report] Cambodian authorities to exercise restraint when dealing with protestors. Days beforehand, Cambodia banned rallies and marches [Al Jazeera report] in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, and authorities removed more than 1,000 anti-government protesters [BBC report] from the capital the same day.