A university student imprisoned for calling for a “color revolution” in a Facebook post appealed his sentence to the Supreme Court on Friday, the latest episode in a case that has raised alarms about the muzzling of Cambodians’ freedom of expression.
Kong Raya was sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in March, a verdict upheld by the Appeal Court in July, sending the case to the high court for a final appeal.
“What he did was just express himself,” Mr. Raya’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, said after the hearing. “He is a Cambodian youth and he did not commit a crime.”
Mr. Raya, 25, was arrested in August last year as he was on his way to class at Phnom Penh’s Khemarak University. He was charged with incitement to commit a felony after asking on Facebook if anyone would “dare to make a color revolution” with him. He also described the king as “stupid.”
Following his sentencing in March, rights groups and the opposition CNRP said Mr. Raya was be*ing made an example by a government seeking to stifle criticism on a digital platform over which it had no direct control.
“It is a strategy and an example to hinder or threaten the expression of other youth,” Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager for rights group Lichadho, said at the time.
Khim Pon, deputy president of the Supreme Court and the case’s presiding judge, said on Friday that the verdict would be announced on Thursday, but declined to comment further.
Mr. Raya claimed injustice as he was escorted from the courthouse.
“I have no faith in the court,” he said, according to a video posted to the Facebook page of opposition leader Sam Rainsy. “Someone who has expressed himself against the government is not allowed to live in peace.”
Later in the video, Mr. Raya’s fa*ther, Kaing Kong, is interviewed about his son’s tribulations.
“I’ve seen injustice—starting from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, through the Court of Appeal, and now at the Supreme Court,” he said.
sovuthy@cambodiadaily.com
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