Cambodian politicians charged with insurrection

Cambodian politicians charged with insurrection
Police officers block a street as protesters demand the release of five opposition politicians near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh.

PHNOM PENH - Six Cambodian opposition politicians were charged Wednesday with insurrection, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, as their party warned of an attempt to "destroy democracy".

The activists, who include five MPs-elect, were arrested after clashes Tuesday at a demonstration against the closure of Phnom Penh's main designated protest site.

They were charged with leading an insurrection movement, masterminding intentional violence and inciting criminal acts, lawyer Ket Khy told reporters.

The insurrection charge alone carries a prison sentence of between 20 and 30 years.

"This is a setback for democracy in Cambodia," Am Sam Ath of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights told AFP.

He said all six were placed in pre-trial detention.

They include prominent MP-elect Mu Sochua of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who has protested repeatedly in recent months against the closure of the capital's "Freedom Park".

The park was launched in 2010 as a designated area for people to air their grievances, but it has been sealed off with razor wire barricades since May.

In a message posted on her Facebook page, Mu Sochua urged supporters to continue "our fight for freedom, human rights and liberties".

Strongman premier Hun Sen faces mounting criticism by rights groups over the suppression of street protests intended to challenge his nearly three-decade rule following a contested election last year.

The 61-year-old, who has vowed to stay in power until he is 74, has been accused by the opposition of vote-rigging.

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