Activist Kung Raiya Receives Suspended Sentence in Kem Ley Shirt Trial

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Activist Kung Raiya upon his release on bail from Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on November 29, 2019, with his wife holding their daughter (Supplied)
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The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday handed down a suspended sentence to dissident Kung Raiya, finding him guilty on charges related to his printing of T-shirts with murdered political analyst Kem Ley’s image and words.

Judge Ouk Reth Kunthea said Raiya, who was not present in court, would not need to serve additional jail time after being locked up for four months and 18 days in pretrial detention last year. The remainder of Raiya’s two-year sentence was suspended, Kunthea said in the courtroom.

The activist’s confiscated belongings, including a phone, computer, books and the Kem Ley T-shirts that he had advertised for sale online to commemorate the third anniversary of the popular government critic’s killing, would remain in the possession of the court as state property, the judge said.

Raiya was arrested on July 9, 2019, a day before the anniversary of analyst Ley’s 2016 murder in Phnom Penh. Raiya was later charged with “incitement to commit a felony” and “committing a misdemeanor after sentencing for a misdemeanor.”

He was released on bail under court supervision in November and left Cambodia not long after, his lawyer Sam Sokong told VOD in May.

The dissident was convicted on the same charge of incitement in a separate case in 2016 and jailed for 18 months after calling for a “color revolution.”

Raiya told VOD on Friday that the guilty verdict was unfair because he had merely sold T-shirts bearing the image of Ley, whom he called a Cambodian hero.

“It is strange and it is only in Cambodia that this can be done. It is an injustice and hurtful for me,” he said.

Raiya added that he had requested his lawyer Sokong appeal the decision.

Sokong said his client had committed no wrongdoing, and his actions were commercial in nature as well as within his right to freedom of expression.  

“If [Raiya] thinks it is unjust, I will prepare the appeal complaint,” the lawyer added.

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