Cambodian court issues warrant for opposition leader

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Phnom Penh (dpa) – A Cambodian court issued an arrest warrant Friday for opposition leader Sam Rainsy on charges of defamation and incitement.

Rainsy is being sued by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong for comments he made in 2008, allegedly suggesting that the 79-year-old is a former member of the Khmer Rouge.

Namhong denies he was ever a member of the Khmer Rouge and says he was instead a victim of the ultra-Marxist regime.

The arrest warrant issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court follows increased tension between Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Namhong is a member of the CPP.

The heightened competition has led to fiery rhetoric from both major political parties, but also renewed political violence. In October, two opposition politicians were pulled from their cars outside parliament and beaten unconscious by CPP-aligned protesters.

If convicted of these latest charges, Rainsy could face up to 2 years in prison and a fine of 8 million Riel (1 million dollars), according to a government document released by Khmer-language news outlet Fresh News.

Rainsy has been convicted on similar charges before but has never served any time in prison as he either left the country or was pardoned.

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