Cambodian court jails Australian filmmaker for six years for espionage
Reuters: A Cambodian court jailed an Australian filmmaker for six years on Friday after finding him guilty of espionage for flying a drone over an opposition party rally. James Ricketson, 69, was arrested last June after he was photographed flying the drone above the rally organized by the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) before communal elections.
Ricketson was charged with espionage, although it remains unclear for whom he was spying. His family called the court sentence an “absolute tragedy”.
“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has decided to convict James Ricketson and sentences him to six years in prison for espionage and collecting information that is harmful to the nation between December 2010 and June 2017,” Judge Seng Leang said.
Ricketson, who has spent more than a year behind bars after his bail was denied, appeared in court wearing a pink prison uniform and holding a copy of the thriller book ‘The Faithful Spy’ by Alex Berenson.
Speaking in court after the verdict, Ricketson expressed disbelief. “Which country was I conducting espionage for?” he asked.
“James is almost 70 and is not in good health, our family is very scared about what will happen to him in there if things take a turn for the worst,” Ricketson’s family said in a statement following the verdict, referring to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison where Ricketson has been jailed.
“James is not a spy. James loves Cambodia and the Cambodian people. He is a filmmaker and a humanitarian,” the family said.
During hearings that began last week the prosecution argued that Ricketson’s work had damaged Cambodia’s reputation on the world stage.