PHNOM PENH: An Australian filmmaker was sentenced to six years in prison on Friday after being convicted of espionage in Cambodia in a case that Human Rights Watch slammed as a “ludicrous charade”.
James Ricketson has been held in jail since his arrest in June last year after he flew a drone over a rally held by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was effectively banned months later.
The CNRP’s dissolution paved the way for strongman premier Hun Sen to win a clean sweep of all parliamentary seats in July’s national election, which Western democracies have said was flawed in the absence of any viable opposition.
After a six-day trial, Judge Seng Leang found the 69-year-old Ricketson guilty on two charges of espionage.
“We have decided to convict (him) to six years in prison for espionage and collecting harmful information that could affect national defence,” he said, without giving any details of which country he was allegedly spying for.
The prosecution had accused Ricketson of working as a filmmaker in Cambodia for years as a front for spying.
“Unbelievable — which country am I spying for?” Ricketson asked out loud in court.
His lawyer Kong Sam Onn told reporters waiting outside the court there was “little evidence” to convict his client and that he plans to request a royal pardon from the Cambodian king.
Earlier this week 14 opposition lawmakers and activists jailed before the election were released after sending apology letters to Hun Sen, which the premier said he sent on to the monarch. —AFP