An investigating udge closed a probe into espionage allegations against Australian filmmaker James Ricketson last week but has yet to set a date for the hearing, defence lawyer Peung Yok Hiep said on Thursday.
She said Pich Vichearthor, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge, has closed the investigation into Ricketson almost 12 months after he was arrested for flying a drone over an opposition party rally in Phnom Penh last June.
Yok Hiep said Vichearthor will decide in July whether to send the case to trial or drop the charges. She said she submitted a bail request last week to the municipal court on health grounds, but it was rejected due to the lack of a doctor’s certification confirming Ricketson was in poor health.
Her client, she said, was allowed out of the crowded cell to a room in the prison hospital where he could rest. Ricketson’s translator, who asked to remain anonymous, said the Australian filmmaker has swollen lymph nodes, scabies, a chest infection and has lost weight.
“In the past he filed bail requests to the appeal and supreme courts, but they were rejected. I, his lawyer, put in another request for bail, but it was rejected as we did not have a hospital letter to confirm his ill health,” Yok Hiep said.
Ricketson was arrested early last June while flying a drone to capture footage of a Cambodia National Rescue Party rally prior to commune elections.
He was then charged under Article 446 of the Criminal Code with “collecting information which may undermine national security”. He faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
On Wednesday, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott joined an online petition on change.org calling for Ricketson’s release.
“James Ricketson should not have been [jailed] for flying a photographic drone over a political meeting in Cambodia and he should not have been held for 12 months without charge. Our government should firmly indicate to the Cambodian government that it’s past time for him to be released on humanitarian grounds and allowed to return to Australia,” he wrote.
An email The Post sent to the Australian ambassador to Cambodia, Angela Corcoran, went unanswered.
The Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, is said to have sent a letter regarding Ricketson’s case to her Cambodian counterpart. But Chum Sounry, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Thursday that he was unaware of such a letter.