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Mother Nature Activists Ask Court of Appeal to Drop Charges

Phnom Penh: Three Mother Nature activists sentenced back in May by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for incitement have launched an appeal to have the charges against them dropped. Their appeal was heard on Tuesday. A decision is expected early next month.

29-year-old Thon Ratha, 22-year-old Long Kunthea and 21-year-old Phoun Keo Raksmey are serving between 18 and 20 months for the crime "incitement to commit a felony or to disturb social security”, under articles 494 and 495 of the criminal code.

Their sentences were based on a series of videos that Mother Nature posted on its Facebook page and website, inciting Cambodians to protest against the authorities, ostensibly for environmental reasons, but they now want the charges dropped, to be released from prison and their $1000 fines cancelled.

The Phnom Penh Court of Appeal heard the case on Tuesday. The three activists have asked the court to overturn their convictions and sentences, saying that what they had done in the past was about protecting the environment and they did not intend to incite social disorder. At the time, the Municipal Court also issued arrest warrants for the director of Mother Nature, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, as well as a member of the NGO “Khmer Thavrak Youth Movement”, Chea Kunthin. Both were sentenced to 20 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,000 each.

Regarding the three activists who appeared on Tuesday, the Appeal Court says it will hand down a ruling on Friday 5 November.

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