Appeal Court Says Seng Chan Theary to Remain in Prison

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Seng Chan Theary greets supporters after a hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 4, 2022. (Ouch Sony/VOD)

The Appeal Court has rejected a motion from jailed Cambodian-American activist Seng Chan Theary for her release, with her lawyer pushing for her to be freed while the case was still in appeal.

Chan Theary, a lawyer and opposition supporter, was convicted on June 14 alongside dozens of other CNRP leaders, officials and activists for plotting and incitement. She was sentenced to six years in prison and first imprisoned in Phnom Penh but later transferred to the Preah Vihear Provincial Prison.

Appeal Court judge Yon Narong said the court was rejecting Chan Theary’s request and that her lawyer’s arguments in court went against established legal measures. The judge did not elaborate on his decision.

Choung Chou Ngy, Chan Theary’s lawyer, argued in court that Article 398 of the Criminal Procedure Code allows for the release of a defendant who has been convicted and is appealing their sentence.

Chou Ngy was also disappointed Chan Theary was not brought to court for the hearing.

However, the prosecution’s arguments hinged on Article 353 of the same code, which allows for a court to issue a detention warrant for an accused person if the punishment was at least one year in prison.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued an arrest warrant for Chan Theary immediately after sentencing and convicting her in June. Theary, who was not allowed inside the court because she was dressed as the Statue of Liberty, was arrested by security guards outside the court and sent to prison.

Im Sophan, a court prosecutor, questioned Chou Ngy’s reasoning and said no clear reasons were given for the release of Chan Theary.

“The prosecution sees that Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided to sentence Seng Chan Theary to six years in prison without suspension. So the prosecution sees that the court should not give bail.”

Chou Ngy later told reporters that he had already filed a separate motion appealing the Theary’s conviction.

Theary was convicted in one of four mass trials that have seen dozens of CNRP leaders, officials, activists and supporters convicted for a raft of crimes, mostly related to former party president Sam Rainsy’s failed attempt to return to Cambodia in November 2019.

A fifth mass trial was recently announced and will head to trial on September 15.

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