Bail bid denied for Australian filmmaker

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
James Ricketson was arrested after flying a drone over a CNRP rally. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected bail for Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, who is being held on charges of espionage.

Presiding judge Soeng Panhavuth said the court denied Mr Ricketson’s bail request and would uphold the decision made by the Appeal Court on July 28.

“The Supreme Court thinks the Appeal Court’s decision was correct because this case is under investigation by the court, so detention is necessary,” he said.

Mr Ricketson arrived at the court after judge Panhavuth announced the decision at about 8am.

Mr Ricketson, 68, was arrested near Phnom Penh’s riverside area in June last year and charged with collecting information prejudicial to national defence, which falls under the treason and espionage section of the criminal code.

Photographs posted to Fresh News at the time of his arrest showed Mr Ricketson flying a drone over a CNRP rally heading from Wat Chas across the Chinese Friendship Bridge to the city centre on June 2.

Mr Ricketson told reporters at the Supreme Court on January 17 that, “Journalism is not a crime, journalism is not espionage”.

Alexandra Kennet, the partner of Mr Ricketson’s son Jesse, spoke outside the Supreme Court yesterday on behalf of the Ricketson family, saying they were extremely disappointed by the outcome of the proceedings, in particular because the verdict was handed down in absentia.

“We were very hopeful that today might lead to James being able to wait out the investigation period in conditions that were more appropriate to his age,” Ms Kennet said.

“We do hope we can see the case move forward transparently and as swiftly as possible.”

She added that Mr Ricketson’s health was okay at the moment with the relatively cool weather but the prison conditions were difficult for him to bear.

“He is suffering. He’s an Australian man in a tropical climate in incredibly cramped conditions, with 140 other people in his cell. It is not good,” she said.

Peung Yok Hiep, Mr Ricketson’s lawyer, said her client worked as journalist for more than ten years in Cambodia and helped a lot with humanitarian causes.

“He is an old man and he always helps to find justice for many people, so the court should release him on bail,” she said.

Ms Yok Hiep said flying a drone was not a serious crime so the court should take that into consideration.

“He just flew a drone, so I think it is not linked with politics,” she added. “He is a good person, so I think he will get justice at some point in the future.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court will question Mr Ricketson further on Tuesday, Ms Yok Hiep added.

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