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Court upholds espionage charges against Australian filmmaker

Australian filmmaker James Ricketson (centre) is seen at the Appeal Court, where his motion to dismiss the charges against him was denied yesterday.
Australian filmmaker James Ricketson (centre) is seen at the Appeal Court, where his motion to dismiss the charges against him was denied yesterday. Kim Sarom

Court upholds espionage charges against Australian filmmaker

Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court yesterday quashed Australian filmmaker James Ricketson’s bid to have espionage charges against him dismissed, according to his lawyer.

Ricketson, 69, was arrested on June 3, shortly after he was spotted flying a drone over an opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party commune election rally.

He was held for almost a week before being charged with gathering sensitive information with the intention of supplying it to a foreign state, which could jeopardise Cambodia’s national defence.

If he is found guilty, Ricketson could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

His lawyer, Ou Helene, said the judge in the closed court session rejected her client’s request to annul the proceedings, dismiss the charges and grant him bail, instead opting to send his case back to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s investigating judge for further action.

“The decision is final . . . the decision to dismiss the annulment request cannot be appealed,” she said.

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

The verdict was handed down after a closed-court hearing on Friday, she said. On July 28, Ricketson also appealed the court’s “order of nonrelease” so he could request bail. However, the Appeal Court also rejected that request.

Outside court yesterday, Ricketson lifted the back of his shirt to show his lawyer the angry red sores dotted across his back.

Helene said she would attempt to have her client moved from Prey Sar prison to PJ prison, saying Ricketson had contracted a skin disease in the notoriously overcrowded jail.

Ricketson will be defended by a new lawyer for future proceedings, Helene said, saying she had too many cases to juggle.

“For the charge that [is lodged] against him, of course he disagrees,” she said.

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