Cambodia: Housing rights activist released after global campaign

The provisional release of housing rights activist  Yorm Bopha is a great relief both for her family and the community but does not go far enough, Amnesty International said today after Cambodia’s Supreme Court today released her on bail and sent her case back to the Appeals Court. Yorm Bopha is one of 13 cases featured in Amnesty’s annual ‘Write for Rights’ initiative, the world’s biggest human rights campaign.

Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Cambodia who attended today’s appeal hearing, said:

“Yorm Bopha’s release is good news, but it is disappointing that her conviction still stands and the case is not over.

“She should never have been imprisoned, locked up and separated from her young son and family.

“Yorm Bopha’s case is symbolic of a worrying trend in Cambodia over recent years where human rights defenders face harassment, threats, arrest, imprisonment and worse for their peaceful activism.

“The release of Yorm Bopha, albeit on bail, proves that campaigning and activism can really make a difference in the lives of people who are victims of human rights abuses and violations.

“We will continue to campaign until she is acquitted and released unconditionally.”

Amnesty designated Yorm Bopha a prisoner of conscience, having determined that the reason for her imprisonment was her human rights activism, rather than the assault charges she faced. She had been defending her community’s rights at the former Boeung Kak Lake in the capital Phnom Penh, where thousands of people have been forcibly evicted since 2007.

A 30-year old mother of one, Yorm Bopha has been imprisoned since her arrest in September 2012 on accusations of planning an assault on two men. She was convicted last December for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances”, despite there being no evidence against her and inconsistent witness testimonies.

In June, Cambodia’s Appeal Court upheld Yorm Bopha’s conviction with one year of her three-year sentence suspended. She was not due for release until September 2014. But today, Cambodia’s Supreme Court released her on bail and ordered the Appeal Court to reconsider her case.

Yorm Bopha is among 13 cases selected for Amnesty’s flagship campaign Write for Rights 2013, the world’s biggest human rights campaign. More information at: https://amnesty.org.uk/actions/help-get-bopha-home

Together with her community and other activists in Cambodia, thousands of Amnesty  members in almost 40 countries around the world have been calling on Cambodia’s government to release Yorm Bopha, signing petitions and sharing their photos and messages of support online to show their solidarity with the imprisoned housing rights activist.

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