Cambodian court upholds life sentence for critic’s killer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia’s Supreme Court on Friday upheld a life prison term given to a man convicted of murdering a prominent government critic.

The court rejected the appeal of Oeut Ang for a reduction in his sentence for shooting dead political analyst Kem Ley at a convenience store in the capital Phnom Penh in July 2016.

Oeut Ang had claimed he shot Kem Ley over an alleged loan he failed to pay back. But there was widespread speculation the killing was politically motivated because of Kem Ley’s caustic commentaries about Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government in the media.

The killing took place shortly after Kem Ley spoke on radio about a report alleging that Hun Sen’s family had taken advantage of its connections for financial gain.

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Tens of thousands of people joined his funeral in protest of Hun Sen’s authoritarian rule, which hardened even more after the killing with the closure of independent media and a court decision dissolving the only credible opposition party ahead of the 2018 general election.

Oeut Ang’s lawyer, Im Mach, said that the decision to uphold the sentence was too severe, because his client admitted his crimes and asked the court for mercy.

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