Two weeks ago, Global Exchange honored Mu Sochua at our Human Rights Awards gala with the People’s Choice Award. Unable to attend the event as she was facing trial and prosecution for simply asserting her right to free speech, her daughter Devi Leiper accepted the award on her behalf. Her court case took place last week in Cambodia where the Supreme Court charged her with a ‘guilty’ verdict in the year-long defamation case against Prime Minister, Hun Sen.
Mu Sochua sent the Global Exchange staff an update on her trial and asked us to share her story far and wide.
2nd June, Phnom Penh
Mu Sochua Charged “Guilty” by Supreme Court
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party Member of Parliament and human rights advocate Mu Sochua was summoned by the Supreme Court to appear this morning, Wednesday 2nd June, at 8am. This was to be for the third and final ruling on the year‐long defamation case which has brought her against Prime Minister, Hun Sen.
After a first case on land grabbing, Mu Sochua’s hearing began at 9am in front of a full audience of SRP members, local and international journalists, as well as human rights advocates and EU representatives and diplomats. When questioned by the judge, Mu Sochua maintained her argument to remain silent as she does not have a lawyer of her own choosing. Mu Sochua asked permission to read her statement which was granted by the Court. Mu Sochua emphasized her position driven by the principles of fair trial, freedom of speech and gender justice.
Proceeding this first testimonial, the prosecutor presented his case. He contended that Mu Sochua’s statements were fabricated and that she was bringing unwarranted attention to Hun Sen.
Furthermore, he argued that this had not been done for the sake of Cambodian women, but as a premeditated effort to attack the Prime Minister’s authority and honour. Ultimately, the prosecutor illustrated Hun Sen as an unfortunate victim.
After an hour and a half of discussion, the court came back into session to read the verdict. The judges declared they could not accept Mu Sochua’s claims, and in the end upheld the verdict from the previous rulings. Mu Sochua is to pay the fine of $4100 or else will have to face a prison sentence.
Immediately following the court ruling, Mu Sochua spoke to the press. Alternating between Khmer and English, she expressed that her and every Cambodian’s right to freedom of speech and justice had been violated. She called for everyone to not be hindered by fear and to affirm their rights. With a resolute passion, she reaffirmed her refusal to never pay the fine and her readiness to go jail.
With a large and diverse group of followers behind her, Mu Sochua led a march from the Supreme Court to the Royal Palace and the SRP headquarters. White candles in hand, the SRP’s symbol, the protestors sang a well-known Khmer song calling on Khmers to defend their nation with pride and courage.
The protest was carried out with no incident, although, the group faced anti-riot police barriers and barricades along the way. Calmly yet defiantly, the group pressed on, moving past the police blockade.
Power and strength goes out to Mu Sochua as she continues to fight for human rights and justice. Please spread this story far and wide. For more on Mu, visit http://musochua.org/