Australian filmmaker James Ricketson found guilty of espionage in Cambodia

Australian filmmaker James Ricketson has been sentenced to six years in a Cambodian prison, after being foun...

Posted: Aug 31, 2018 1:19 PM
Updated: Aug 31, 2018 1:19 PM

Australian filmmaker James Ricketson has been sentenced to six years in a Cambodian prison, after being found guilty of spying for an unnamed country.

The 69-year-old filmmaker was arrested in Cambodia in June 2017 after flying a drone over a rally organized by the Cambodia National Rescue Party, an opposition group that was later dissolved by the government.

Asia

Australia

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Cambodia

Continents and regions

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal law

Espionage

Hun Sen

International relations and national security

Law and legal system

Media industry

Movie and video industry

National security

Oceania

Political Figures - Intl

Southeast Asia

Verdicts

Arts and entertainment

Movies

A statement released by Ricketson's family Friday said they were "absolutely devastated" by the verdict and sentence.

"We are in utter shock at this outcome and that James, an innocent Australian, has been sentenced so harshly. Our family lives this tragedy daily," his family said.

Ricketson's lawyer Sam Onn Kong told CNN that Ricketson would seek a royal pardon, which could take up to a month to be decided.

Meanwhile his family urged the Australian government to intervene, saying that Ricketson's health had suffered during the 15 months he's spent in Prey Sar prison, in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

"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," they said in the statement.

"We're not sure how long he can endure the conditions he is forced to live in in Prey Sar prison, where he is subject to cramped quarters, lack of sleep, subsistence food and close to zero medical care."

The Australian government said it acknowledged the conviction and was providing full consular assistance.

"Mr Ricketson is subject to legal proceedings under Cambodian law and must now consider his response to the court's decision using the avenues open to him under Cambodian law," said the statement from Foreign Affairs minister Marise Payne.

"The Australian Government will consider what further appropriate support we can provide after that time."

HRW: 'Ridiculously excessive charges'

Before the verdict was announced Friday, Kong said that the prosecution had failed to provide any concrete evidence of espionage -- or even name the country that he was accused of spying for.

"Which words, which sentences, which paragraphs effect national defense?" Kong asked the prosecutor at Ricketson's trial, according to Australia's national broadcaster ABC.

"Which country is James spying for? Is it Australia? Is it America? Please let us know."

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch condemned the Cambodian judicial system in a statement following the verdict Friday.

"This trial exposed everything that's wrong with the Cambodian judicial system: ridiculously excessive charges, prosecutors with little or no evidence, and judges carrying out political orders from the government rather than ruling based on what happens in court," Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch said.

"When it comes to a conviction in a Cambodian court, clearly no facts are required."

CNN has attempted to contact the Cambodian government for comment but hasn't received a response.

The Australian Directors' Guild (ADG) called on the Australian government to intervene on Ricketson's behalf.

"We call on the new foreign minister, Marise Payne, to contact her counterpart in Cambodia and seek clemency for James and for him to be sent home" ADG CEO Kingston Anderson said in a statement.

"Based on the evidence and what we know of James we do not believe he was spying for anyone. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and may have contravened some local regulations but he was not spying for any government.

The Australian government has not commented.

Veteran filmmaker

Ricketson has traveled back and forth between Cambodia and Australia for more than 20 years, filming documentaries about life in the Southeast Asian country.

His son, Jesse Ricketson told CNN that his father's first trip to Cambodia was to film "Sleeping with Cambodia," a 55-minute documentary described by Screen Australia as an "exploration of paedophilia and children at risk."

Since then he has set up charitable ventures in the country, including fostering a Cambodian girl, and her mother.

The ABC reports that Ricketson had been critical of Cambodian leader Hun Sen, and that Cambodian media sympathetic to the government had labeled him an "important spy" acting to foment a "color revolution."

The prosecution's main legal arguments focused on emails, which were retrieved after his arrest, including one message to former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, urging him to withdraw an invitation for Hun Sen to visit Australia in 2016, Kong said.

Ricketson said in his closing statements at the trial that the "notion that a spy would provide national security information to a prime minister via a Gmail account is both fanciful and ludicrous," according to the ABC.

Ricketson's son Jesse told CNN Thursday that months of detention in a Cambodian prison had taken a toll on his father's physical and mental health.

"(It's been) hard for us, most specifically James. He's an old man and not in the best health -- conditions in prison are very hard. There's also a human toll on all those who support him."

He said his father had never meant to offend the Cambodian people or government.

"He's an outspoken guy who has a lot of opinions but he's always come from a place of love for Cambodia -- he loves the people, loves the place," Jesse Ricketson said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26980

Reported Deaths: 1159
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin9099657
Ramsey3351149
Stearns205614
Nobles15775
Anoka152779
Dakota144664
Washington70035
Olmsted68911
Rice5243
Kandiyohi5141
Scott4712
Clay44930
Mower4462
Wright3492
Todd3441
Sherburne2492
Carver2402
Benton1853
Steele1700
Freeborn1590
Blue Earth1490
Martin1355
St. Louis11914
Lyon1012
Unassigned9611
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Cottonwood820
Winona8115
Crow Wing815
Watonwan790
Carlton750
Goodhue736
Otter Tail731
Chisago691
Polk632
Itasca5610
Dodge540
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur471
Douglas460
Meeker460
Becker440
Jackson420
Murray410
McLeod410
Isanti360
Pennington300
Waseca290
Mille Lacs241
Rock230
Faribault220
Wabasha200
Swift191
Beltrami180
Sibley170
Brown172
Fillmore171
Norman150
Pipestone130
Kanabec121
Aitkin120
Marshall120
Cass112
Big Stone110
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Redwood70
Yellow Medicine70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Red Lake40
Traverse40
Grant40
Clearwater30
Houston30
Hubbard30
Lac qui Parle30
Roseau30
Stevens10
Lake10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21114

Reported Deaths: 593
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4614140
Woodbury286137
Black Hawk178849
Buena Vista10672
Linn97879
Dallas95226
Marshall91418
Wapello63615
Johnson6198
Muscatine56741
Crawford5512
Tama41129
Scott38510
Dubuque35921
Louisa35011
Pottawattamie31910
Sioux3060
Jasper26917
Wright2210
Washington1968
Warren1671
Plymouth1522
Story1311
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9913
Poweshiek928
Hamilton760
Webster741
Henry732
Boone720
Bremer716
Clarke690
Des Moines681
Taylor660
Clinton651
Guthrie553
Cedar501
Benton431
Cherokee410
Monroe415
Jones370
Shelby370
Osceola360
Jefferson360
Marion350
Dickinson350
Buchanan341
Iowa340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Madison292
Lee290
Sac280
Davis280
Emmet270
Fayette270
Clay270
Monona260
Harrison260
Hardin240
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Lucas222
Mills200
Grundy200
Franklin200
Humboldt201
Pocahontas200
Delaware191
Floyd191
Hancock180
Appanoose173
Butler161
Kossuth160
Carroll151
Ida150
Greene150
Keokuk140
Jackson140
Page140
Audubon131
Cass130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Winnebago110
Calhoun100
Union100
Van Buren90
Adair90
Montgomery92
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Worth30
Unassigned20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Rochester
Few Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 72°
Mason City
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Albert Lea
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 78°
Austin
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 73°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 79°
Weekend looks nice
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sean Weather 6/6

Image

Chris' PM Weather Forecast 6/5

Image

Gyms, fitness centers set to reopen

Image

Easing restrictions for MN restaurants and gyms

Image

Charles City vigil for George Floyd

Image

Hawkeye Harvest Foodbank partnership

Image

Next phase of Minnesota reopening

Image

Rental Assistance program for Rochester

Image

IA Care Homes Could Reopen to Visitors

Image

'Color Me Mine' Location Closes for Good

Community Events