Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer, has been sentenced to six years in prison for conspiring against the government.
51-year-old Seng, who escaped to the US as a child during the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 and returned to Cambodia as a human rights activist in 2004, and more than 100 activists were accused of committing treason and incitement against the Cambodian government.
She and the other activists and opposition leaders had been associated with the now dissolved opposition group, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and accused of trying to bring the exiled CNRP leader, Sam Rainsy, back to Cambodia in 2019.
The CNRP was dissolved by the country’s highest court in 2017 ahead of the election, leading several party members to flee abroad and essentially making Cambodia a one-party state under prime minister Hun Sen, according to the New York Times.
International and local organizations have accused Hun Sen, who rose to power during the 1990s after the end of the Khmer Rogue regime, of suppressing the opposition.
Seng arrived to court in Phnom Penh found on Tuesday June 14 dressed as Lady Liberty.
“So I am Liberty, I am Freedom. Today, this autocratic regime wants to imprison freedom, this autocratic regime wants the Cambodian people not to breathe,” she said.
Once the verdict was delivered, images show police officers escorting Seng to prison. Her lawyer said they intended to appeal.
Human Rights Watch called the trials “a witch hunt” in March, when 19 members of the CNRP were convicted on charges of “incitement” and “conspiracy,” the New York Times reported.
“Cambodia’s politicized courts have facilitated Prime Minister Hun Sen’s effort to destroy the last remnants of democratic freedoms and civil and political rights in the country,” it said.