A Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge yesterday gave an Australian filmmaker a wholly suspended two-year prison term after finding him guilty of threatening a Brisbane-based church doing work in Cambodia.
Judge Keo Mony also levied a six-million riel ($1,500) fine against 64-year-old James Ricketson after he was convicted of threatening to dishonour the Citipointe Church by broadcasting accusations that the church sold children, Mony said.
“After carefully considering the law, the court has found James Ricketson guilty,” Mony said. “He has the right to appeal the court’s decision.”
In an email to the Post, Ricketson said he went to court and spoke to a judge, who said he would set a new trial date. A Post reporter at the hearing did not see Ricketson there.
Ricketson’s case stems from a documentary about prostitution in Cambodia he began filming in 1993. At that time, he met a young girl working as a garbage collector who became a prostitute. Later in life, the woman gave birth to two children, whom she sent to live at a Citipointe shelter.
When Ricketson recently tried to update his film, Citipointe refused to let him interview the girls, now 11 and 12, on camera, church attorney Kong Rady said during the March 12 trial.
According to the church, Ricketson then bribed the girls’ parents into asking Citipointe to return their children, but after finding out why the parents asked for their children back, the church declined.
“Ricketson has tried to get two girls who are vulnerable to human trafficking, whose mother was a victim . . . out of our shelter in order to continue making a film . . . for his personal benefit,” part of Citipointe’s complaint reads.
When the church did not return the children, judge Mony said, Ricketson threatened to broadcast allegations that Citipointe sold children abroad.
In an open letter to Citipointe pastors Leigh Ramsey and Brian Mulheran posted on his blog on Tuesday, Ricketson said he wasn’t served with a court summons. But Mony said that when police attempted to serve a summons, Ricketson refused to accept it and threw a bowl at them.