Two prominent rights activists were jailed on Wednesday on charges of incitement related to their participation in the ongoing “Black Monday” campaign, while a Spanish academic was deported on Wednesday night for her involvement in the demonstrations, officials said.
On Monday, rights activists Tep Vanny, 35, and Bov Sophea, 43, were arrested as authorities broke up a peaceful vigil in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood, attended mostly by women and children holding lotus flowers, waving U.N. flags and cursing effigies.
Spanish academic Marga Bujosa Segado is pushed into a police van outside her home in Phnom Penh on Wednesday evening. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily) The next morning, Marga Bujosa Segado, 38, a Spanish university researcher, was detained by the Interior Ministry’s immigration department for her involvement in Black Monday protests but was released after questioning and told she could pick up her passport the following day.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana said Ms. Vanny and Ms. Sophea were charged on Wednesday afternoon with incitement to commit a felony under an article in the Criminal Code that also refers to crimes that “disturb social security.”
“Judge Pech Vicheathor has opened the trial of suspects Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea and, according to the procedure, they are ordered to appear to face charges of incitement to commit a felony under Article 495,” Mr. Sophana said. The crime carries a prison sentence of between six months and two years.
How the women may have incited a felony or caused social instability remained unclear on Wednesday, but the government has said that the Black Monday campaign is illegal and tantamount to an “urban rebellion.”
Black-clad activists have for the past 15 Mondays gathered publicly to call for the release of four human rights workers and an election official who were jailed on charges widely believed to be politically motivated.
Since the murder of political analyst Kem Ley last month, which was met with outrage and accusations of government involvement, demands for an independent investigation into his death have also moved to the center of the campaign.
During a snap hearing at the municipal court on Wednesday afternoon, Judge Vicheathor promptly denied bail to the activists—to ensure that they do not commit the crime again and appear for their trial, and “to guarantee public order and protect society from unrest.”
Activists Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea look out a window at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday afternoon. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily) Upon exiting the courtroom, Ms. Vanny yelled: “The court plays with our future as if it is a joke!”
“Why do you need to send us to pretrial detention?” she shouted. “Why don’t you just decide to imprison us forever?”
Before being escorted into a waiting police car, Ms. Vanny told her fellow activists to stop protesting. “This will show that the government blocks freedom of expression,” she said.
At about 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Ms. Segado exited her apartment in Boeng Kak and was bundled into an immigration police van by about 10 officers.
“They expelled me from the country because they don’t want me to join in demanding the freedom for the activists,” Ms. Segado said before being pushed into the vehicle.
Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said Ms. Segado was deported at about 9 p.m. via Phnom Penh International Airport, both for her participation in Black Monday protests and for not having a work permit.
“She is a foreigner and joined demonstrations and protested against us. There are tens of thousands of foreigners who live in Cambodia and who behaves like her? There is only one,” Major General Heisela said before her deportation.
A Boeng Kak activist protests outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily) “When they had demonstrations, we often saw her face, especially during the Black Monday campaign, when she dressed in black,” he said. “We can’t let her live in the country because her acts affect our public security.”
Ms. Segado could not be reached for comment after being taken to the airport. In a Facebook post, however, she claimed to have been deceived by the immigration officials.
“They trick me, they told me I needed to go to pick my passport and instead they detained me until I leave from Cambodia. That was 9.30 a.m.,” she wrote.
“Happily they are all lightweight and wear so big shoes that remain empty,” she said, vowing to return to Cambodia in 2018.
odom@cambodiadaily.com, wright@cambodiadaily.com, sokhean@cambodiadaily.com
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