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Cambodia Sentences 26 in Terror Attack - 2001-11-05

A court in Cambodia has sentenced 26 people to prison for an attack a year ago on government buildings in Phnom Penh. At least six people, most of them attackers, died in the incident.

The 26 men were convicted of terrorism and of belonging to an illegal armed group. Three defendants were given 15-year jail sentences. Ten others were given seven-year terms and the rest were given lesser sentences. Two defendants were released for lack of evidence.

Cambodian intelligence agents foiled the pre-dawn attack against government buildings, including the Defense Ministry. Prosecutors said it was aimed at overthrowing the government.

The defendants reportedly belong to the U.S.-based Cambodian Freedom Fighters. In July, a Cambodian court convicted the group's leader in absentia of being involved in the attack, and sentenced him to life in prison. Thirty members of the group also received prison sentences in that trial for involvement in the same attack.

Authorities blamed the same group for six explosions last month in the central Cambodian town of Pursat. There were no casualties in those blasts.

The Cambodian government says the group is a terrorist organization. It is reportedly working with U.S. authorities investigating the group.

Government critics say government agents are responsible for the attacks, and that the incidents are being used to intimidate political opponents.