Cambodian Activist, 71, Sentenced to 20 Years
Sonando accused of attempting to overthrow government
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Oct 1, 2012 11:42 AM CDT
Cambodian supporters of Mam Sonando, one of Cambodia’s most prominent human rights defenders, protest in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Some 300...   (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

(Newser) – Cambodian-French radio broadcaster and activist Sonando, 71, has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for attempting to overthrow the country's government, according to a Phnom Penh court. Some 13 others were also found guilty of inciting a rebellion among villagers, Reuters reports. Sonando pleaded not guilty to the charges, which backers say are overstated; Prime Minister Hun Sen said in June that the activist had planned "to establish a state within a state," and accusers say he sought to recruit up to a million people in the effort.

Human rights groups have condemned the verdict, which "raises severe doubts about the impartiality and independence of the court," says a rep for a top EU official. A Cambodian human rights representative goes further: "The verdict was written by politicians." The dispute comes amid continuing tussles in the country over land rights; activists say Hun Sen's government is handing companies control of vast amounts of land and forcing out residents.
 

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