Cambodia: Court Frees Land Eviction Protesters

Posted June 27th, 2012 at 6:30 am (UTC-5)
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A Cambodian court has ordered the release of 13 women who were imprisoned after protesting in support of families whose homes were destroyed during forced evictions.

The women were sentenced last month to two and a half years in prison, following a brief trial that rights groups described as hasty and unfair.

Judge Seng Sivutha of the Phnom Penh appeals court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of the women. But he reduced their sentences to one month and three days, the length of the time they had already served in jail.

Many of the women cheered and wiped tears from their eyes as the judge read the verdict in the high-profile case, which had drawn the attention of international diplomats.

The judge said the women, who were convicted of aggravated rebellion and illegal occupation of land, should be released because they were housewives who had not meant to create “chaos.”

The women were arrested after protesting the destruction of homes and the forced evictions of thousands of families living around Phnom Penh's Boueng Kak area. The government had awarded a contract to a Chinese company to develop a hotel, office buildings, and luxury housing in the area.

Cambodia has carried out an intensifying wave of sometimes violent forced evictions affecting tens of thousands of people. Activists say officials are increasingly cracking down on those who challenge the land grabs.