Jailed Australian filmmaker Ricketson camouflaged his crimes: Cambodian prosecutor

Jailed Australian filmmaker Ricketson camouflaged his crimes: Cambodian prosecutor

The 69-year-old' was charged with espionage after he was photographed flying a drone above a political rally.

James Ricketson case - 2
James Ricketson was photographed flying a drone above a political rally organised by the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). (Photo: Ouch Sony)

PHNOM PENH: Australian James Ricketson's espionage trial came to a close on Wednesday (Aug 29), with Phnom Penh municipal court's deputy prosecutor Seang Sok further questioning the filmmaker over charges of collecting information that could jeopardise Cambodia's national defence.

Ricketson has spent more than a year behind bars after his bail was denied. 

The 69-year-old was arrested on Jun 3, 2017, after he was photographed flying a drone above a political rally organised by the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) ahead of a communal election.

He was later charged for espionage, although it is unclear for whom he was allegedly spying. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in jail.

On Wednesday, Sok claimed authorities have found evidence showing he was collecting information for a foreign state.

The accused, Sok said, used his reporting and humanitarian work for underprivileged families to camouflage his crime.

"The accused pretended to be an expatriate reporter, aiming to collect information about the security situation in Cambodia," Sok said, further alleging that Ricketson has produced films to stir discrimination against Cambodia, as well as writing emails targeting its top leaders. 

Sok claimed there is evidence showing Ricketson's ties with CNRP leaders, including former opposition leader Sam Rainsy and current leader Kem Sokha, who was charged with treason for allegedly working with foreign powers to disrupt national security.

"THE TRUTH SHALL SET ME FREE"

Defence lawyer Kong Sam Onn rejected all the claims.

"The charge of collecting information that could jeopardise Cambodia’s national defence under Article 446 of Cambodia's criminal code could result in 10 years in jail. However, I'd like to ask which foreign state Mr Ricketson was spying for," said Onn.

"He came to Cambodia to help the poor. He filmed children at dump sites. Does it jeopardise national defence? It cannot."

On his way back to Prey Sar prison, Ricketson repeatedly maintained his innocence.

"The court case is over and there is still no evidence. I still don't know which country I am spying for," he said. " The truth shall set me free, I hope."

Presiding Judge Seng Leang is set to announce the verdict on Aug 31.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that the prosecution in this case had suggested that the accused should also be charged with treason. This is incorrect and we apologise for the error.

Source: CNA/aa(hm)

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