Australian film-maker James Ricketson sentenced to six years' jail in Cambodia

Published On: August 31, 2018 10:30 AM NPT By: Agencies

Australian film-maker James Ricketson has been found guilty of espionage in Cambodia and sentenced to six years in jail.

Ricketson, 69, said he had worked as a journalist and video documenter in the south-east Asian country since 1995 and was arrested in June 2017 for flying a drone at a political rally. He has been incarcerated since then, with the guilty verdict given this morning by a three-judge panel in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

Prosecutors said Ricketson used journalism as a front for spying, citing links to former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Cambodian National Rescue party (CNRP).

The CNRP was Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s party’s (CPP) main political opposition until it was dissolved last November.

The prosecution also accused Ricketson of treason, saying he planned to overthrow Hun and illegally give information to foreign governments.

Prosecutors did not name the states he was alleged to have colluded with despite Ricketson repeatedly asking them to do so during his trial.

Ricketson, who made films about poverty and financially supported poor Cambodians he befriended, called the spy claims “fanciful and ludicrous”. His lawyer, Kong Sam Oun, said: “James has done a lot of good here, nothing to do with spying. It is impossible to be a spy for 22 years.”

Before the verdict was given this morning Ricketson said: “I hope I am free today and I could go home.”

In the past two weeks Hun released around 20 political opponents jailed on what critics claimed were political charges, a move that Ricketson’s supporters hoped increased the chances of him being freed.

The prime minister, who in July won a landslide victory in an election decried as undemocratic by critics, has orchestrated an intense crackdown on free speech and the media in Cambodia.

He has closed newspapers and overseen the jailing of journalists, politicians and social media commenters deemed to threaten government rule.

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