U.N., labor agency welcome release of Cambodian labor activists

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) on Friday welcomed the release of the 25 labor activists and garment workers, but voiced concerns over the convictions of them.

"We welcome the release today of the 25 men and boys who had been arrested and tried following the workers' (violent) protests in November and January," the agencies said in a joint statement.

A Cambodian court on Friday morning convicted the 25 persons of causing intentional violence and destroying property and sentenced them to prison terms between six months and four-and-a-half years, but all jail terms were suspended, according to a verdict.

All 25 are currently at liberty, with the 22 who had been held in pre-trial detention promptly freed on Friday afternoon.

"OHCHR and ILO are concerned about the criminal conviction of all 25 individuals, in view of the apparent procedural shortcomings in all trials and the lack of evidence establishing direct responsibility of the individuals for the actions of which they were nevertheless found guilty," the statement said.

"Furthermore, in a number of cases, the evidence indicates that individuals were arrested when simply exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

The 25 convicts were arrested during clashes between police and protesters in November and January when they held violent protests to demand a higher minimum wage of 160 U.S. dollars a month for the garment sector.

The clashes at that time left four people dead and dozens injured, and cost garment factories millions of U.S. dollars. Endi

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