An incitement case against an opposition official’s 16-year-old son, which U.N. experts have criticized as “disturbing,” will head to trial on September 29, the boy’s lawyer said.
The teenager, whose family says he has autism, was arrested June 24 over online messages that allegedly insulted public officials. His father, Kak Komphear, has been repeatedly jailed for participating in opposition politics.
At the time of the 16-year-old’s arrest, Phnom Penh police said they had Telegram messages and an audio message as evidence of the boy’s crimes. His mother said at the time that her son seemed to be dealing with emotional trauma from his father’s arrests.
The mother, Prum Chantha, has been active in protesting the jailing of political prisoners.
Defense lawyer Sam Sokong said on Tuesday that the boy’s case for incitement and insult would be tried at the municipal court on September 29.
“We hope the court will release him,” Sokong said, especially considering the teenager’s mental health issues. “He is not responsible for his actions.”
He said the proceedings were a violation of children’s rights.
Chantha said she hoped the court would release her son. She was very worried about his well-being in prison, she said.
The teenager was also arrested in October last year after trespassing into the outlawed opposition CNRP’s former headquarters. He was released after 48 hours.
He was also attacked in public in April when unknown assailants threw a brick at his head, a method that follows a pattern of recent attacks against opposition supporters. Authorities have not found the assailants.
U.N. rapporteur to Cambodia Vitit Muntarbhorn and others earlier this month called for the boy’s release from prison.
“This case is particularly disturbing because the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities — to which Cambodia is also party — requires authorities to consider the best interests of children with disabilities and provide appropriate assistance,” the U.N. experts said.
Correction: The teenager’s age has been corrected using his birthday recorded with the court.