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Bail Denied for 21 Cambodian Labor Activists

Protesters raise clenched fists with banners printed with detained activist Vorn Pao in front of the Appeals Court during a rally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 24, 2014.
Cambodia's Court of Appeals has denied bail for 21 labor activists who have been detained since a brutal crackdown on striking garment workers in January.

The detainees had sought release on bail Monday, with several claiming serious injuries from police beatings during the crackdown.

Critics say the 21 are being held without bail as a tactic to intimidate other would-be protesters.

An advocacy worker for the NGO IDEA, Long Vuthy, said the decision that followed a two-hour hearing appeared politically motivated.

"I see that this is so unjust to Vorn Pov because he did not commit any offenses," said Long. "On the other hand, they have to know that Vorn Pov is suffering from an illness."

Von Pov's wife, Prak Sovanary, 30, wept outside the court Monday as she called for her husband's release.

"The court, you are so unjust! Why you continue to detain Vorn Pov? I t is very unjust to my family. Why? Why? We only want him out to seek medical treatment, and why they don't allow that? It is so unjust for Vorn Pov," said Prak.

The government has not yet commented on the bail hearing.

A total of 23 activists were detained following an incident on January 3, when five people were killed and 40 injured by an elite military unit that fired into a crowd protesting outside Phnom Penh. Two activists were later released, but authorities have refused to investigate whether the security forces acted unlawfully.

The protesters were demanding doubling the minimum wage to $160 per month.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.