A group of women imprisoned last month for peacefully protesting in support of families whose homes were destroyed during a forced eviction must have their convictions overturned and be released immediately, Amnesty International said ahead of an appeal hearing on Wednesday.
On 24 May, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced the 13 community representatives and human rights defenders to two and a half years in prison after a grossly unfair trial.
Their arrest followed a peaceful demonstration against the destruction of homes and the forced eviction of thousands of families living around Boeung Kak Lake, in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.
“These women are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for speaking out on behalf of their community and for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Cambodia Researcher.
“The charges against the women are baseless, and their trial was grossly unfair.”
The 13 women were tried around an hour after being charged, with their lawyers’ request for time to prepare a defence denied. They were not given access to evidence or allowed to call witnesses.
The appeal hearing for the 13 women is due to take place on Wednesday 27 June at Cambodia’s Appeal Court in Phnom Penh.
“The unfair convictions should be overturned, and the women immediately and unconditionally released,” said Abbott.
Human rights defenders and peaceful protestors in Cambodia, including those trying to save their homes and land, face increasing harassment, legal action and violence, including killings.
In the first six months of 2012, women garment workers demonstrating for improved working conditions were shot in Svay Rieng; a prominent environment activist, Chut Wutty, was shot dead in Koh Kong; and a 14-year-old girl was shot dead during a violent eviction in Kratie.
“Releasing these 13 women would demonstrate that the authorities recognise their human rights obligations, and have the will to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further.”
Notes to Editors
Please click here for Amnesty International’s new briefing ‘Cambodia: Imprisoned for speaking out – An update on Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake’ http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA23/010/2012/en
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