For treason, Cambodia’s most prominent opposition leader was sentenced to 27 years in house arrest.
Former Cambodian National Rescue Party leader Kem Sokha has also been barred from standing or voting in elections.
He was accused of plotting an overthrow of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government with foreign powers.
Hun Sen has been in power since 1985, making him one of the world’s longest-serving autocrats.
In July, Cambodia will hold a general election. Most people believe he will run again, but others believe he will hand over power to his eldest son, Hun Manet.
Kem Sokha, 69, was arrested for the first time in 2017 on the basis of a 2013 video in which he claimed to have received support from US pro-democracy groups.
He and his lawyers have denied the charges and stated that the case against him is without merit.
The US ambassador to Cambodia, W Patrick Murphy, stated on Friday that the case was a miscarriage of justice.
According to Reuters, Kem Sokha’s lawyer, Ang Udom, said his legal team would appeal the verdict.
Human rights organizations and Western governments have called the charges against him baseless and politically motivated.
“The charges against Kem Sokha were obvious from the start that they were nothing more than a politically motivated ploy by Prime Minister Hun Sen to sideline Cambodia’s major opposition leader and eliminate the country’s democratic system,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“It’s not just about destroying Kem Sokha’s political party; it’s also about crushing any hope of a genuine general election in July.”
The group urged authorities to overturn the conviction and “immediately and unconditionally” release him.
Few will be surprised by this decision, as Cambodian courts are widely regarded as being firmly under Hun Sen’s control.
The Cambodian National Rescue Party was led by Kem Sokha, a former human rights advocate. Its popularity soared in previous elections, to the point where it appeared poised to depose Hun Sen and his party.
His party was barred from running in the 2018 election. The majority of its leaders have been prosecuted or forced into exile.
Hun Sen shut down one of the country’s last independent media outlets, Voice of Democracy, last month, claiming that it published an attack on his son and harmed the government’s reputation.