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

(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.

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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. (Read more Cambodia stories.)

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