Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Australia walked all over’ as Ricketson gets six years

‘Australia walked all over’ as Ricketson gets six years

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Australian filmmaker James Ricketson reacts as he attempts to speak to journalists from a prison vehicle after his verdict at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday. TANG CHHIN Sothy/AFP

‘Australia walked all over’ as Ricketson gets six years

The Australian government “let Cambodia walk all over it”, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch said after 69-year-old filmmaker James Ricketson was sentenced to six years in prison upon being found guilty of the “espionage of information prejudicial to national defence” by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday.

“From day one, James Ricketson has been a scapegoat in Hun Sen’s false narrative of a so-called ‘colour revolution’, used as an excuse to crack down on the political opposition and civil society critics,” Robertson said in a statement.

“The sad part is the Australian government just let Cambodia walk all over [it] by failing to publicly and consistently challenge this ludicrous charade and demand Ricketson’s immediate and unconditional release. This is more proof that Australia’s softly, quietly approach towards Southeast Asian dictators is not just morally bankrupt – it’s also totally ineffective.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Presiding Judge Seng Leang said while handing down the verdict that “after legally checking, the court has decided to sentence James Ricketson to six years’ imprisonment on the charge of ‘supplying a foreign state with information prejudicial to national defence’ based on Articles 439 and 446 of the Criminal Code”.

The verdict came after a seven-day trial that ended on Wednesday.

During the hearing, Ricketson rejected the charge laid against him by prosecutor Sieng Sok that he used his humanitarian work helping the poor to hide his spying activities.

Ricketson said he was just a filmmaker and journalist, and that he had not gathered any information harmful to Cambodian security or conducted espionage.

Kong Sam Onn, Ricketson’s lawyer, asked the presiding judge on Wednesday to drop the charge and release his client.

Ricketson reacted after the verdict was pronounced, saying: “Which country did I conduct the espionage for? It is unbelievable.” He was then hurriedly returned to prison.

Sam Onn said the trial was notable for the lack of evidence to support the charge brought against his client.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Australian filmmaker James Ricketson arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in June. Pha Lina

“After a seven-day trial, we can see that there is little evidence for burdening Ricketson by saying he is a spy or an agent affecting national defence or conducting espionage activities against the Cambodian government,” he said.

He continued that he would ask the government for a pardon from the King. Another option would be to forward the case to the Appeal Court.

“I will meet my client to confirm his stance. We will ask the Australian embassy to support our request,” he said.

Ricketson’s son Jesse said the court’s decision was shocking. He said he hoped there would be sympathy for his father’s situation.

“We hope that good things will happen soon,” he said.

Ricketson was arrested on June 3 last year, a day after filming commune election campaigning by the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party near Chroy Changvar Bridge.

HRW’s Robertson continued in his statement that “the trial exposed everything that’s wrong with the Cambodian judicial system: ridiculously excessive charges, prosecutors with little or no evidence, and judges carrying out political orders from the government rather than ruling based on what happens in court. When it comes to a conviction in a Cambodian court, clearly no facts are required.

“Cambodian judicial realities indicate this guilty verdict was politically predetermined, and the only way to counter that is with a staunch public defence, not deference to a judicial system that is politically captured.

“Cambodia should stop tormenting Ricketson and his family, release him immediately and unconditionally, and quash this conviction,” he added.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said: “It is a particularly stressful time for Mr Ricketson and his family, and the Australian government continues to provide him full consular assistance. The Australian government will consider what further appropriate support we can provide.”

The Overseas Press Club of Cambodia (OPCC) expressed its concern over the conviction, calling on Cambodian authorities to clarify publicly in a transparent manner the reason for the conviction.

“OPCC hopes that Ricketson will be kept in humane conditions and his rights respected during his incarceration,” it added.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen’s China visit ‘a good opportunity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Beijing on Sunday to discuss economic and trade issues presents a good opportunity for the Kingdom to strengthen Chinese ties and counter punitive measures by the West, an analyst says. The prime minister’s four-day official visit to

  • Former chief bodyguard receives royal pardon

    The former chief bodyguard of late Senate president Chea Sim has received a royal pardon nearly eight years after he was sentenced to 15 years behind bars on several charges, according to a royal decree dated November 12, last year, and obtained by The Post on Wednesday.

  • Close to the edge: Hair raising pictures from Kulen Mountain

    A new hair raising attraction on Kulen Mountain has finally opened to the public, with people flocking to the protruding cliff edge overlooking green mountainous forests to take photographs. The giant overhanging rock is situated in an area known as Mahendraparvata – an ancient city of

  • US warned not to interfere despite successful meeting

    A senior Ministry of National Defence official said the Tuesday meeting between the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia Joseph H Felter and General Neang Phat had helped strengthen relations between the two countries’ militaries. However, a senior Cambodian People’