France: Cambodian opponent Sam Rainsy’s trial opens after Hun Sen’s complaint
The trial of Cambodian historical dissident Sam Rainsy, exiled in France, and prosecution for defamation after a complaint lodged by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, began Thursday in Paris.
The session opened at 2:30 PM local time (12:30 PM GMT). The trial is expected to last a day and the verdict will be booked. Mr Rainsy is on trial for Facebook comments in June 2019.
The founder of the National Salvation Party of Cambodia (PSNC), the main opposition party, Sam Rainsy, 73, fought a long time against Hun Sen – in power for 37 years in Cambodia – before going into exile in France where he had lived a year ago. 2015.
Mr Rainsy, who also holds French citizenship, is already undergoing several trials in Cambodia, where he says he is being tried for political reasons.
In 2019, he tried in vain to return to Cambodia, a project the authorities deemed an “attempted coup”.
Arriving at court on Thursday surrounded by his supporters, the opponent, who was dressed in a tie and eyeglasses suit, told AFP he expected “real justice” from French justice.
In the courtroom, many people from the Cambodian diaspora were present to watch the trial.
According to the complaint filed in Paris, Sam Rainsy accused Hun Sen of being behind the 2008 murder of Commissioner Hawk Lundy – the head of the Cambodian National Police – in the crash of his helicopter.
“Hon Sen assassinated Hook Lundy with a bomb placed inside his helicopter which caused an explosion during his flight over the Svay Range province on November 9, 2008. Hun Sen decided to assassinate Huwk Lundy because he knew a lot about Hun Sen’s crimes,” Rainsy said on Facebook.
– ‘Political battle’ –
Mr Rainsy is also on trial on Thursday over another defamation complaint, filed by De Vechea, for comments the opponent also made on Facebook in June 2019. Huck Lundy’s son, De Vechea is the Deputy Commissioner General of Cambodian National Police and son-in-law of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In a call with AFP on Wednesday, Luc Broussolet, a lawyer for Hun Sen and de Veccia, said he was waiting for “the court to rule on the comments in question and criticized them as defamatory.”
For her part, Jessica Fennell, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, told AFP that she expected the court to “recognize that it is in the public interest of Sam Rainsy to denounce the crimes committed by Hun Sen who exercises (functions) under the dictatorship of the state.”
“Sam Rainsy was persecuted for thirty years by Hun Sen. The only weapon he was left with is his freedom of expression to testify about what he went through and condemn the suffering of political opponents and human rights defenders in Cambodia.”
“Sam Rainsy is a victim in his country of the spread of proceedings, and the regime is trying to muzzle him,” Matias Cecbortic, a lawyer for Mr Rainsy, told AFP on Wednesday. “We expect this trial to uphold Sam Rainsy’s right to express his political struggle,” he said.
The PSNC made a breakthrough in the 2013 elections before dissolving it four years later.
Since the 2018 legislative elections, after which Hun Sen’s party won all seats in parliament, the results of which are controversial, the system has doubled down on arrests and actions against any dissenting voice.
In June, during a mass trial, dozens of opposition figures were convicted, including Mr Rainsy, who was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison. This sentence is in addition to those he had already been sentenced to, notably 25 and 10 years in prison for attempting to overthrow the Prime Minister.
The next elections in Cambodia are scheduled for next July.
Hun Sen will run for a new term. His eldest son Hon Manet, a general trained in Britain and the United States, wants to take the position one day, but has not set a date for this potential succession.
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