PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Cambodian court sentenced a man to a year in prison on Friday for attacking police and destroying public property during protests over election results last year, but his lawyer said torture was used to extract a confession from him.
A general election last July was won by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) but the opposition alleged it was fraudulent and launched what was the biggest challenge to long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen in years.
Police broke up the protests on September 15, sparking clashes in which one man was shot dead.
Six men faced charges related to those events and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found three of them guilty on Friday. Two received suspended sentences, while the third, Nguyen Thydoc, is to spend a year in jail of his three-year sentence, with the rest suspended.
“These people must be cleared. There hasn’t been any evidence presented and witnesses told the court they were not involved,” Yin Savat, lawyer for the men, told Reuters.
Rights groups said Nguyen Thydoc had been tortured by police to confess he had thrown rocks at police and claimed double standards, noting the court had not moved ahead with a case filed by families of the dead and injured against the authorities.
The opposition is still boycotting parliament, refusing to accept the election results.
Talks between Hun Sen’s CPP and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which are due to continue next week, have so far gone nowhere.
CNRP leader Sam Rainsy has called for a more aggressive protest, taking a lead from weeks of anti-government protests in Ukraine, which ultimately led to the removal of President Viktor Yanukovich.
“The next protest, it won’t be 200,000 people but 2 million people, so be ready to join,” he told supporters in Kandal province near the capital, Phnom Penh, this week.
“When its 2 million people, it will be like Ukraine and I believe that the armed forces won’t kill you but will join hands with the people.”
Cambodia has a population of 14 million.
Adding to the pressure on Hun Sen, trade unions, which have formed an allianced with the opposition, said they would resume a nation-wide strike on March 12 to demand the release of 21 people jailed for taking part in previous stoppages and to push for an increase in the monthly minimum wage to $160.
The opposition CNRP had promised before the election to double the minimum wage in clothing factories to $160 a month if it won power. The government imposed a minimum wage of $100 this year.
Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Alan Raybould and Ron Popeski