Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Aussie filmmaker’s spy trial postponed

Aussie filmmaker’s spy trial postponed

James Ricketson, 68, seen flying a drone at the CNRP rally in Phnom Penh in June.
James Ricketson, 68, seen flying a drone at the CNRP rally in Phnom Penh in June. Fresh News

Aussie filmmaker’s spy trial postponed

Jailed Australian filmmaker James Ricketson was hauled in for a fresh round of questioning about alleged “espionage” activities at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, only to have the session postponed.

Shedding light on the murky set of circumstances surrounding Ricketson’s case, Sourng Sopheaktra, a lawyer who represented him yesterday, revealed police had mined Ricketson’s emails and other documents after seizing his phone, laptop and other electronic devices.

Sopheaktra said yesterday’s court session was postponed until at least next week, as those seized documents had not all been translated into Khmer.

Ricketson, 69, was arrested in June and has spent six months in pre-trial detention – the maximum length of imprisonment before trial unless an extension is requested – after he was seen flying a drone at a CNRP rally.

He was later charged with planning to furnish foreign agents with information “liable to prejudice the national defence”, an accusation observers and his lawyer dispute, arguing his case is part of a broader crackdown on independent media and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested in September for “treason”, and his party – the only real challenger to the ruling party at upcoming elections – was dissolved two months later over accusations it was colluding with foreign powers.

“It is because of his relation with the opposition party – that’s why he got in trouble,” Sopheaktra said. “If he made films related to the ruling party, maybe [it would] not matter.”

He said a preliminary document at the court alleged Ricketson had contact with many people in the opposition party. Ricketson, for his part, has told the court he came to the Kingdom “to help poor people and make films, not to be a spy”.

Sopheaktra said Ricketson had yesterday dismissed him as his lawyer and would instead be represented by defence attorney Peung Yok Hiep.

Ricketson’s daughter, Roxanne Holmes, yesterday told The Post of the emotional toll her father’s imprisonment was having on their family.

“James adopted me many, many years ago. He saved my life. He is not a spy,” she said, calling him “a real humanitarian”.

“We all love him. We’re absolutely devastated that he’s not here, it’s heartbreaking.”

Australian interest in Ricketson’s case has peaked over the past month, but while some loudly sing his praises, Ricketson has also caught others offside, including the Cambodian courts, who have found him guilty of blackmail and defamation in the past.

MOST VIEWED

  • Negotiations on EBA being held

    In an effort to defuse tensions, a senior government official said Cambodia is negotiating with the European Union (EU) on the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade deal, which allows the Kingdom to export goods to the 28-member bloc tariff-free. The EU notified Cambodia on October 5

  • Ministers to tackle sea pollutants

    Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities and members of local communities have collected 77 tonnes of water hyacinth at a Sihanoukville beach, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesperson Or Saroeun said. He told The Post yesterday that the aquatic weeds had been floating along some of the province’s

  • Chinese police escort deported scam suspects

    Ninety-one Chinese nationals accused of extorting money from victims in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scam were deported from Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday under the escort of 182 Chinese police personnel. General Department of Immigration head of investigations Ouk Hay Seila told reporters

  • EU officials: Ending EBA an 18-month procedure

    EU officials have confirmed that it will take a total of 18 months to complete the procedure if Cambodia’s preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) trade agreement is to be withdrawn. According to EU Agriculture and Rural Development spokesman Daniel Rosario, the formal process has not