In this March 30, 2017 file photo, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha prays during a Buddhist ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the attack on anti-government protesters in 1997, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The country’s Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of the country's biggest opposition party on Nov 16, 2017 after its leader Kem Sokha was charged with "treason.” (HENG SINITH / AP)
PHNOM PENH – The Supreme Court of Cambodia ordered the dissolution of the country's biggest opposition party on Thursday after its leader Kem Sokha was charged with “treason.”
"The court decided to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and to ban its 118 leaders from politics for five years from the date of this verdict issuance," Supreme Court President Dith Munty said in his ruling after a five-hour hearing.
The dissolution of CNRP and ban on its leaders came two months after the government arrested CNRP's leader Kem Sokha for plotting the overthrow the government.
Kem Sokha, 64, was charged last month with treason, a crime that could earn him 30-year jail if he is convicted.
This Nov 9, 2017 file photo shows Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen waiting to attend the Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (HENG SINITH / AP)
The charge against Kem Sokha was based on videos from 2013 that showed him telling his supporters in Australia about his plot against the government.
During the hearing, the government's lawyers presented 26 pieces of evidence that proved the CNRP was involved in a plot to topple the government.
In this Oct 31, 2017 file photo, a supporter of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party wears a poster of party leader Kem Sokha as she stands outside the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (HENG SINITH / AP)
According to the verdict, the court said the CNRP did not submit a defensive statement to the court and did not send its lawyers to fight the legal battle.
The verdict said the CNRP's non-participation in the hearing meant that it had confessed to the crime.