The 4.5 hour appeal trial of the Boeung Kak 13 ended about noon yesterday to jubilation and tears. The 13 mothers would be freed from prison, but justice was not served.
As early as 6:30 AM, at least 150 mixed police had blocked all the main roads in front/back and sides of the Appeal Court, not allowing the about 500 BKL families, nearby communities, partners, media and friends to get near the Appeal Court. When questioned, police said they had received orders “from the top” not to allow anyone past the road blocks. In mid-morning outside the court room, at least 5 community villagers and 7 community children were beaten by mix police, including a 27-year-old woman who lost her 2-3 month unborn child after being viciously kicked by riot police.
The trial started about 7:45 AM to a packed courtroom of about 40 people, which included representatives from USAID, US embassy, EU embassy, Danida, UNOHCHR, media and several INGOs/LNGOs. The 13 BKL reps testified one by one but three witnesses for the defense where not allowed to enter the court room, despite repeated attempts by the defense lawyers to bring them in to testify. Only a fourth witness, an NGO worker, was allowed to testify for the 13 BKL women.
The trial ended about noon with an announcement from the court that they would deliver the final verdict within a few minutes. As all court officials except the clerk left the room, dozens of media and NGO workers were left to take photos of and talk freely with the 13 BKL reps. At about 12:30 PM, the Presiding Judge rendered the final verdict: suspension of the remaining prison sentences of all 13 BKL reps from the original 2.5 year prison sentence of the PP Municipal Court.
Following an elated street party on riverside, some 300 family and friends of the 13 headed to CC2 prison to await their release. Their wait was finally over at about 7.30pm, when the prison officials had managed to stamp the 51 documents required to release the women.
During a joyful tuk tuk ride back to Boeung Kak, residents along the way came to wave at the group and wish them well. The day’s festivities were completed by a 700 people strong party in Village 22, Boeung Kak.
Photos courtesy of Nicolas Axelrod.