Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ricketson trial closes, verdict due Friday

Ricketson trial closes, verdict due Friday

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
James Ricketson speaks to journalists earlier this week at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Pha Lina

Ricketson trial closes, verdict due Friday

The trial of Australian filmmaker James Ricketson closed on Wednesday, with the defence portraying the 69-year-old as “a man who had done a lot to help” Cambodia.

However, the prosecution accused him of hiding behind the facade of a “humanitarian” to “incite foreign countries to hate” the Kingdom and its leader.

Presiding Judge Seng Leang said the verdict in the case, where Ricketson is charged with collecting information that jeopardises Cambodian defence under Article 446 of the Criminal Code, will be handed down on Friday.

As of Wednesday’s hearing, Ricketson had served 454 days in pre-trial detention in Prey Sar prison.

Prosecutor Sieng Sok alleged that Ricketson had been collecting “harmful” information. “Since 1995, he entered Cambodia to collect information on social situations and security, and gave it to foreigners again and again,” Sok said.

He said Ricketson had close connections with the leaders of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), including Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha, Yim Sovann, Tioulong Saumura and Mu Sochua.

“To hide his spying activities, the accused presented himself as a humanitarian worker, but this was to illegally collect information without permission from state authorities."

“The accused incited foreign countries to hate Cambodia, especially to hate Samdech Techo [Hun Sen], the highest leader of Cambodia,” Sok said.

Sok said Ricketson had produced five films about Cambodia with the intention to make people despise the government and change the Kingdom’s leadership.

“The actions of the accused violated Articles 439 and 446 of the Criminal Code. I would like the council of judges to sentence the accused according to the law,” the prosecutor said.

But Kong Sam Onn, Ricketson’s defence lawyer, said Article 446 was passed in 2010, so it couldn’t be used to charge Ricketson for crimes dating back to 1995 as Cambodian laws cannot be used retroactively.

“We have heard about a man who spent a lot to help society, but he is being charged with a crime that is not stated in the law."

“That man is James Ricketson. He is retired and weak, not having the strength to carry out spying activities,” the lawyer said.

He said Ricketson had a long history of entering Cambodia as a filmmaker, director, writer and blogger, and that the films he produced resulted in a law being passed to tackle child prostitution.

“The prosecutor said the information that Ricketson collected jeopardised Cambodia. This is not true. He was just telling the truth. Poor people exist in all countries and this is not always the fault of the authorities,” Sam Onn said.

The defence also argued that what Ricketson wrote to CNRP leaders was not illegal because he was a journalist while it was an opposition party, and the people concerned were members of parliament.

“Were his [actions] poisonous? How did he jeopardise Cambodia? Sam Onn asked. “We should not devalue the work Ricketson has done over 22 years in Cambodia. We should give value to his generosity.”

The lawyer said the pictures Ricketson had collected may have shown Cambodia in a negative light, but they did not harm Cambodian national defence.

Sam Onn said the charges brought against Ricketson were intended for those involved in collecting military and state secrets to be given to foreign actors.

“He wrote articles and produced films, and showed them to the public. Would a spy do this?” he asked.

In urging the council of judges to find Ricketson not guilty, Sam Onn said: “I would like the judges to release my client from the charges and set him free.”

Ricketson used his final words to the court to explain his case, spending around 30 minutes doing so, finally telling the judges: “I don’t think what I have done is a crime, unless journalism is a crime.

“I hope [I receive] justice based on facts, evidence and truth. The truth will give you freedom,” he said and thanked the judges.

MOST VIEWED

  • Website advises travellers to stay clear of Angkor Wat

    An Australian website has advised travellers to avoid Angkor Wat during their trip to Southeast Asia because the ancient temple is showing signs of rapid erosion and faced water management issues. In a recent article entitled Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US

  • Passenger taxi boat ridership sinks despite free services

    Passenger taxi boat traffic has dropped by about five per cent compared to the same period last year, despite the government providing free service for garment workers until next year, Phnom Penh Autonomous Bus Transportation Authority director Ean Sokhim said on Monday. In 2018, the Phnom

  • Shipments of mango to South Korea poised to begin this week

    Exports of Cambodian mangoes to South Korea will begin this week after Korean authorities gave the nod. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Department of Plant Protection, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Requirements director Ker Monthivuth told The Post on Sunday that after several inspections of

  • Kingdom drafting new law to strengthen immigration

    The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it had formed a working group to draft amendments to the Law on Immigration. Its secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post that the amendments will strengthen the management of immigrants in line with the current situation.

  • Jica seeks to turn PP, towns into smart cities

    Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) representatives have sought support from Siem Reap’s Apsara National Authority (ANA) to transform the ancient capital into a smart city. The call was made in February last year after the government approved three cities to join the Asean Smart