Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, who has spent more than seven months in Cambodian prison on allegations of “espionage”, had a ruling on his final bid for bail delayed at the Supreme Court today.
Ricketson, 68, last week made an impassioned plea for his release. His clothes were soaked in sweat and he claimed police had “beaten” him. He said he came to Cambodia to help the poor and make films, not to spy for foreign nations, as the charges against him allege.
His lawyer, Peung Yok Hiep, said the case was delayed because not all judges were present as they were “busy” with meetings or workshops. A decision on his bail application will instead be issued on January 31.
Ricketson was arrested last June after he was spotted flying a drone above an opposition rally.
Police accused him of gathering information that could jeopardise Cambodia’s “national security”, and seized his computer, mobile phones and equipment, combing them for evidence of spying. If convicted, Ricketson faces up to 10 years behind bars.
But family members, his lawyers and Ricketson himself say the charges are spurious and highly politicised. Ricketson had close contact with members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November over widely derided accusations it was fomenting “revolution”.
“Journalism is not a crime. Journalism is not espionage,” Ricketson said this morning in a brief interview during a break in proceedings following a fellow inmate’s hearing. “I’m still waiting to be told which country I’m spying for and to be provided with at least one shred of evidence that I have engaged in espionage.”
He said he was “not hopeful” that his bail bid would be successful, but was adamant that no evidence of spying would be found in his emails.
“I’m not hopeful. They are determined to find some evidence . . . Unfortunately there’s a question of loss of face,” he said, referring to authorities.
Ricketson also said previous defamation cases brought against him denied him due process, claiming he was not notified of the court proceedings until after a verdict had been delivered against him.
Ricketson appeared agitated as he left the courtroom. He repeatedly said he needed to speak to his lawyer but was dragged away by guards. Turning to a family member, he suggested it may not be a good idea for them to remain in the country.
Support for Ricketson has galvanised in his native Australia over the past month, with a petition calling for his release gaining some 50,000 signatures.
Alexandra Kennett, the partner of Ricketson’s son, said she remained hopeful the case would be resolved swiftly.
“It’s obviously difficult for the family every time we are in court and disappointing to have this delay come about today,” she said, calling on the compassion of the Australian and Cambodian governments.
Updated: 7:01am, Thursday 18 January 2018