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Defamation Trial Begins for Cambodian Opposition Leader

The trial of Cambodia's opposition leader has opened Thursday, in a case being condemned by rights groups as a bid to silence critics of the government.

Sam Rainsy is being tried in absentia in two criminal defamation suits. He fled to France earlier this year.

The first suit was filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who says Sam Rainsy wrongly accused him of being behind a 1997 grenade attack on an opposition demonstration that killed 16 people.

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh filed the second suit. He says Sam Rainsy accused him of receiving a kickback from Hun Sen to join a coalition government last year.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of almost $2,500.

New York-based Human Rights Watch says the trial is the government's latest attempt to silence dissent.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.