A NEW Zealand man serving a 20-year prison sentence on rape charges appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday to face charges of defamation and disinformation filed by an NGO that he has publicly accused of setting him up.
Graham Cleghorn, 62, was convicted in 2004 of raping five teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 19 who were employed at his Siem Reap home.
He has since claimed in several media interviews that the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre, an NGO that provides services to vulnerable women and children, had paid the five girls US$10,000 each to testify against him.
Cleghorn, who represented himself at yesterday’s hearing, pleaded not guilty to the defamation and disinformation charges.
“What I said through media interviews was accurate,” he said.
He added that he had evidence to support his claims in the form of a letter from a girl stating that a CWCC official had asked her to testify against him in exchange for $10,000.
He said the letter and other documents he would like to present were being stored at the Supreme Court.
“I would like to request you to give me time to contact my embassy and government to help me find a lawyer, and for me to get the documents from the Supreme Court,” he said.
Presiding Judge Din Sivuthy agreed to the request, and scheduled the next hearing for November 15.
Say Vathany, executive director of the CWCC, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
During a recent interview at Prey Sar prison, Cleghorn claimed that the publicity around his case had led to an increase in foreign donations to the CWCC, which had capitalised on “hysteria’’ about paedophilia.
He said he had despaired of clearing his name after the Appeal Court upheld the convictions against him in 2007.
“I’m never going to get a fair trial. The most I can hope for is a reduced sentence,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY ELLINGHAM