Autistic Cambodian teen, jailed for online comments, freed

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — An autistic Cambodian teenager was released from prison Wednesday after serving time for posting comments critical of the government on social media in a case that has attracted global attention.

Kak Sovannchhay, 16, was met by his mother and supporters outside Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

He clutched a bouquet of red roses and lilies tightly to his chest and smiled shyly as reporters snapped photos.

Kak Sovannchhay has been in custody since June when he was arrested for comments he made in a Telegram chat group defending his father, a senior political opposition member who is himself in custody facing charges, and for sharing Facebook posts criticizing Prime Minister Hun Sen.

His father, Kak Komphear, has been in detention since May 2020 and his mother Prum Chantha is a member of the group Friday Wives, which holds protests to demand the release of their husbands who have been jailed for expressing their views critical of Hun Sen’s government.

Kak Sovannchhay was convicted last week of incitement to commit a felony and public insult for his online comments in a trial that rights activists and U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy said appeared to be politically motivated.

He was sentenced to eight months in prison but was released under Cambodian sentencing guidelines that include credit for time served.

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