Updated: Verdict Delayed in Case Against CNRP Activist’s Teenage Son

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‘Friday Women’ protestors are confronted by Daun Penh security guards outside the U.S. Embassy on September 10, in a screenshot from a video posted to opposition leader Mu Sochua’s Facebook page.
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The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday afternoon delayed announcing a verdict against a CNRP activist’s 16-year-old son, who is charged with incitement.

The teenager, the son of jailed opposition activist Kak Komphear, was arrested in June over online messages allegedly insulting public officials. The boy was also detained last year for trespassing, and attacked in public earlier this year.

His family says he has autism, and the 16-year-old appeared at times confused or disengaged while being questioned at his trial last month.

On Wednesday, defense lawyer Sam Sokong said the verdict, scheduled for an afternoon session, had been delayed. Sokong was yet to be informed of a new date. Staff at the court confirmed the postponement, but without giving details.

“The delay affects the rights of the child,” Sokong said.

The boy’s mother, Prum Chantha, said she was told the judge was busy in meetings.

“I don’t know what the court’s next procedure will be. I don’t know. I feel regretful and disappointed because I thought that the court [would] release my son today,” Chantha said.

She wanted her son back in school, rather than in jail, where he had told her he was having a hard time, she said.

“He said he can’t sleep well and he feels sick,” she said, adding that her son had kept repeating the same words and seemed forgetful. “He asked me, ‘Mom, when will I leave?’ I pity my son so much.”

Cambodian Center for Human Rights executive director Chak Sopheap said the ongoing imprisonment affected the rights of the child. “All people have the right to get a fair trial, and especially children,” she said.

On June 24, around 20 officers surrounded the family’s house to arrest the teenager, according to his mother Chantha. Nine of them stormed the house, and took the boy away in a car without showing an arrest warrant, she said at the time.

He was caught for “red-handed” crimes involving Telegram and audio messages, a police official said at the time.

At his trial on September 29, the 16-year-old answered after repeated questioning: “I got angry and I hate the leaders.”

The prosecution also cast doubt on whether he had a mental illness as he could use Facebook and had accepted an invitation to a Telegram group.

“So, it means that he has a full state of mind. There is no proof showing that he has a mental illness or autism,” deputy prosecutor Kim Hongsan said in September.

Chantha, the boy’s mother, has been a frequent protester outside the Phnom Penh court since the arrest of his father, Komphear. Komphear was jailed last year as part of ongoing “mass trials” against opposition supporters.

The son was attacked by two unknown assailants in April, struck on the head with a brick in Meanchey district’s Boeng Tompun I commune, an assault his mother suspected was political.

Updated at 4:40 p.m. with quotes from Sam Sokong, Prum Chantha and Chak Sopheap.

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