Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday postponed a hearing for detained Australian journalist and filmmaker James Ricketson after his new lawyer said he had not finished studying the complaint documents.
Presiding Judge Seng Leang announced the delay after the court spent 30 minutes asking what the lawyers and prosecutor thought.
“After consideration, the court decided to delay the hearing following the defence lawyers’ request and the hearing will be on August 16,” Judge Leang said.
Mr Ricketson was arrested in June last year while he was using a drone camera to film a CNRP rally in front of the Royal Palace without authorisation. Police confiscated the drone and other materials.
The court has charged Mr Ricketson with collecting information prejudicial to national defence. The charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years in jail.
In court, lawyer Kong Sam Un asked for the delay because he had received the request to defend Mr Ricketson a short time earlier. Mr Sam Un said he had not had time to study the complaint documents.
“I am asking to delay the hearing for one month because I need to meet my client at the prison several times to clarify some points in the evidence,” he said.
Mr Ricketson’s former lawyer, Peung Yok Hiep, said she agreed with Mr Sam Un because his client had asked for another lawyer to defend him a short time earlier, so he needed more time to study many documents of the complaint.
Mr Ricketson said in court that prosecutors had not produced the evidence for review.
“Among the evidence are 400 pages and I have not read those documents yet because the prison did not allow them to be brought in,” he said. “In conclusion, I agree with my lawyer’s request; I’m not already to defend my case.”
Last week, Mr Ricketson wrote a letter of apology to Prime Minister Hun Sen and pleaded to be released.
Mr Ricketson, 69, has been in Prey Sar prison since June last year awaiting trial after being accused of involvement in terrorism or a colour revolution after being arrested while flying a drone over a CNRP rally.
“May I please, respectfully, send my sincerest apologies to yourself and the Cambodian government,” Mr Ricketson wrote. “I now realise that statements I have made in the press are disruptive and ill-informed. These statements were made from a place of foreign naivety and ignorance about the complexities and difficulties of governing Cambodia.”
“I sincerely regret having made any disrespectful comments and I unreservedly apologise in this regard to yourself and your Cambodian government,” he added. “I can see much more clearly now how much good your government brings to the country and the stability it affords to Cambodians. I apologise unreservedly and without condition for any distress I may have caused as a result of my ignorance of Cambodian issues.”