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Cambodia Releases Opposition Leader From House Arrest

Pheng Heng, right, lawyer to former Cambodia National Rescue Party's President Kem Sokha, speaks to media in front of Kem Sokha's house in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 10, 2019.

Opposition leader Kem Sokha said he would continue to fight for his innocence hours after a Phnom Penh court changed the conditions of his bail, allowing him to move within the country, but still restricting his travel overseas and preventing him from engaging in political activity.

Before's Sunday's court ruling he was only allowed to only move within the three streets bordering his residence, effectively keeping him in house arrest. Kem Sokha has been arrested in 2017 in a midnight raid and charged with treason .

His Cambodia National Rescue Party was disbanded by the Supreme Court and 118 of its senior members banned from politics.

Following the new order issued Sunday, Kem Sokha posted on his Facebook page that the new restrictions were not an exoneration and that he would continue to demand that the court absolve him of the treason charges.

“As I am an innocent person who suffered detention for more than 2 years, I continue to demand the [court] to drop the charge against me,” he said in the Facebook post.

“I hope that today decision is the first step, but I and others who have been stripped off freedom to politics still demand solution and justice.”

Kem Sokha’s daughter, Kem Monovithya, said on social media that the new bail conditions came after his lawyers requested the court to drop the charges on November 7.

“Today, the court lifted some restrictions on his house arrest but a few restrictions remain. We still continue to call for the drop of all charges and reinstatement of his political rights,” she wrote on Twitter.

The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh issued a short statement on Sunday saying it was aware of the “limited step forward” but strongly urged for more concrete action to lift all charges against Kem Sokha.

“We note the partial lifting of restrictions on former National Assembly VP Kem Sokha. This is a step in the right direction, but for genuine progress his full rights & freedoms must be restored. I met him in 2017 & hope to see him participate fully in political life ASAP,” wrote US Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy on his Twitter account.

The development came a day after self-exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy arrived in Malaysia in his attempt to return to Cambodia.

Rainsy had promised to return to his homeland from Paris by Saturday, Cambodia's 66th Independence Day. He said he was coming back to restore democracy in Cambodia. It is not immediately clear if Rainsy will be allowed to enter Cambodia.

Sokha and Rainsy are the co-founders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Additional reporting by Men Kimseng and Sok Khemara.