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Cambodian radio station owner to be freed this week

Mam Sonando, owner of the Beehive Radio and president of the Association of Democrats, waves to his supporters at Cambodia's Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 14, 2013. Cambodia's Court of Appeal on Thursday reduced jail term for Mam Sonando, owner of the Beehive Radio and president of the Association of Democrats, to five years with remaining jail term being suspended, according to a verdict announced by presiding judge Khun Leang Meng. (Xinhua/Phearum)

Mam Sonando, owner of the Beehive Radio and president of the Association of Democrats, waves to his supporters at Cambodia’s Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 14, 2013. Cambodia’s Court of Appeal on Thursday reduced jail term for Mam Sonando, owner of the Beehive Radio and president of the Association of Democrats, to five years with remaining jail term being suspended, according to a verdict announced by presiding judge Khun Leang Meng. (Xinhua/Phearum)

PHNOM PENH, March 14 (Xinhua) — Cambodia’s Court of Appeal on Thursday reduced jail term for Mam Sonando, owner of the Beehive Radio and president of the Association of Democrats, to five years with remaining jail term being suspended, according to a verdict announced by presiding judge Khun Leang Meng.

The court found Sonando, 72, guilty of obstruction of public officials, interference in the discharge of public duties, and illegal logging, he said.

Sonando, who was arrested on July 15, 2012 at his house in Phnom Penh, will be released on Saturday after he has served eight months in jail, the judge said.

“I support the court for giving a suspended jail term to my client,” Sonando’s defense lawyer Sar Sovan told reporters.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Oct. 1 last year convicted Sonando of masterminding a “secessionist” plot and sentenced him to 20 years in jail.

The court found that Sonando masterminded a plot to establish an autonomous region in eastern Kratie province in May last year. At that time, there was a violent clash between the government forces and illegal land holders. As a result, a 14-year-old girl was shot dead by government forces.

Some western countries see the conviction of Sonando as a political motivated move to stifle a popular government critic.

In November last year, while attending ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, U.S. President Barack Obama urged Cambodia to release political prisoners during a bilateral meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Obama highlighted the case of Sonando for instance.

However, Hun Sen said, “In Cambodia, there is no political prisoner, but politicians abused the law, so they must be punished in accordance with the law.”

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