The United States says the conviction of Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy is evidence of the continuing deterioration of democratic principles in the country.
Mr. Sam Rainsy was tried in absentia Thursday on two counts of criminal defamation and was sentenced to 18 months in jail. His case was condemned by rights groups as a bid to silence critics of the government.
In a written statement, the U.S. State Department called on the Cambodian government to allow all citizens to express their views peacefully without fear of retribution or intimidation.
Sam Rainsy fled to France earlier this year. Critics say the ruling effectively negates any role for him in future elections.
New York-based Human Rights Watch also protested the trial as the government's latest attempt to silence dissent.