Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday held a second day espionage trial against Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, who was charged over the collection of information deemed detrimental to the country’s national security last year.
Mr Ricketson has been behind bars since his arrest in June 2017 after he operated a drone to film an opposition rally without authorisation.
At the time, police confiscated the drone and other film making materials.
The court yesterday questioned Chap Thy 32-year-old god daughter to Mr Ricketson.
During her testimony, Ms Thy said that she got to know Mr Ricketson when she was 10 as she was begging in the streets of Phnom Penh with her parents.
“I met James when my eyes were infected,” said Ms Thy, now a mother of nine.
“At that time, James gave me medicine, a bottle of water and bananas and he gave me $10.”
She added that Mr Ricketson took her photos and paid for her English lessons until she was 18.
Ms Thy said that when she was 20 years old, Mr Ricketson helped her pay rent and gave her money to buy vegetables to sell at Kandal market where she was able to earn money to support her family.
Eventually, with the money given to her and the support she received from Mr Ricketson, her family was able to escape poverty.
Ms Thy said that when Mr Ricketson was arrested by several plainclothed police, she was shocked.
“I saw four police officers catch my father James and push him into a truck and about three other police officers prevented me from helping him,” Ms Thy said, noting that neighbours took pictures of Mr Ricketson, but were ordered to delete them.
In the court room yesterday, deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok and other three judges asked Ms Thy if she knew where Mr Ricketson got the money to support her family.
“Father James is a very good person because I saw him support other poor people in Cambodia,” Ms Thy said.
Mr Ricketson said in the courtroom that he was a filmmaker producing films in Australia from 1973 to 2014.
“I produced 13 documentaries for ABC Television,” Mr Ricketson said, adding that he produced multiple documentaries in Cambodia.
He said that he used the money left behind by his deceased father to support poor children in Phnom Penh.
“The money that my father remained for me after he died, I took it to help some children in Cambodia and 18 other Cambodian poor families at a pile of trash in Meanchey district’s Stung Meanchey commune,” he said.
Mr Ricketson said that he sought to find $140,000 to buy a piece of land for the 18 families, but he could not do so after his arrest.
Last week, Peter Weir, a 74-year-old Australian film director, who went to school with Mr Ricketson gave his testimony to the court.
The court charged Mr Ricketson with espionage, which could land him in jail for up to ten years if convicted.
Last month, he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen expressing his regret over his actions. Mr Ricketson asked Mr Hun Sen to sponsor his release.
“I apologise unreservedly and without condition for any distress I may have caused as a result of my ignorance of Cambodian issues,” he said in the letter. “If there is anything I can do to remedy my mistake, please let me know as I only want the best for you and Cambodia.”
Presiding judge Seng Leang said that the trial will continue on Thursday and Friday.