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Cambodia court defers opposition treason trial to next year

PHNOM PENH — A Cambodian court convened on Thursday for the treason trial of more than 100 opposition figures and then deferred proceedings until next year, delaying a case widely condemned as a move by long-serving premier Hun Sen to decimate his political rivals.

A total of 121 defendants, all tied to the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), had been summoned to appear on Thursday but just 34 showed up, with many in exile, convinced they would not get a fair hearing.

Deputy prosecutor and court spokesman Kuch Kimlong confirmed judges had decided the case be divided into two and heard in January and March.

“Maybe it’s related to the issue that the accused need to have defense lawyers,” he told Reuters when asked the reason.

Defendants and court staff were seen arriving amid tight security at the Phnom Penh court, with most media unable to enter what police said was a packed courtroom.

The CNRP was banned and its leader Kem Sokha arrested ahead of an election in 2018, allowing Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party to win every parliamentary seat.

Kem Sokha’s treason charges stem from accusations he conspired with the United States to overthrow Hun Sen, which both he and Washington reject.

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