A Phnom Penh court convicted an exiled political commentator for defamation and incitement for comments he made about murdered analyst Kem Ley, and sent two other related cases for further investigation.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court heard three cases in December with Sok and three others as defendants, all relating to the charges of incitement or defamation. The court convicted Sok and sentenced him to 18 months in prison and fined him around $2,000.
He was also ordered to pay the government around $12, 500 in damages.
This case is related to radio interviews Sok gave in 2017 alleging that the murder of political commentator Ley was linked to the ruling party. Sok was the only defendant in this case.
Ley was shot point blank at a gas station in Phnom Penh, after which the courts convicted a former soldier, Oeuth Ang, for the murder. Ang said he killed the political commentator over an unpaid loan.
Sok, who lives overseas, said over Facebook Messenger on Wednesday that the verdict was not only targeted at him but was a wider threat to politicians and social and political commentators.
“The decision to have me unjustly lose the case is an example of two kinds of threats, not only against me but also against the general people who dare to act in demanding for social justice,” he said.
Judge Seng Socheat sent back two other cases to the investigating judge to include additional testimony from judicial police officers.
“The court thinks that the judicial police should give more clarification and so decides to send the case to the investigating judge for reinvestigation to listen more to the testimony from judicial police,” the judge said in court.
The first of those remaining two cases involves Sok and two other people who are often critical of the government online: Meas Leakhena in the Philippines and Huy Sakil in the U.S.
The three are accused of spreading misinformation to cause hatred against the government — with the case file including Facebook posts criticizing Hun Sen, the court system and alleged corruption among high-ranking officials.
The second case involves Leakhena and Kay Sophy, another government critic in Germany. Their Facebook accounts, which police said were operated under different names by the two defendants, posted criticism of Hun Sen and his government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are also charged with incitement.
This story was updated on January 19 to include damages owed by KIm Sok.