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Court probes Ricketson’s CNRP ties

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times Share:
James Ricketson is escorted away from the court yesterday. KT/Mai Vireak

Phnom Penh Muncipal Court deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok yesterday questioned Australian filmmaker James Ricketson about his connection to former opposition leader Sam Rainsy and documents he sent to his lawyer and an unnamed Australian prime minister.

Mr Ricketson has been in jail since being arrested in June 2017 and charged with espionage after flying a drone to film a CNRP rally without authorisation.

During the third day of the trial yesterday, Mr Sok questioned Mr Ricketson over the documents he sent to his lawyer in 2013 and 2015.

“‘Hun Sen has weapons, tanks and more than 10,000 bodyguards to protect him,’” Mr Sok read from the document. “What is the purpose of your writing? Where did you get this information from?” Mr Ricketson responded by saying that he was a journalist and that it was his job to cover stories on Cambodian politics.

“This is an opinion that I sent to my friend who’s a lawyer in Australia and my prime minister,” he said. “For this message, the court cannot charge me with espionage.”

Mr Ricketson was also questioned over his contact with Mr Rainsy after an arrest warrant was issued for Mr Rainsy in 2015.

Mr Ricketson said that he was simply doing his job by trying to contact Mr Rainsy for comment.

“I do not work for Sam Rainsy and I also do not have anything to do with the CNRP,” Mr Ricketson said. “I worked as a journalist.”

Mr Ricketson told the court that Prey Sar prison officials confiscated documents that could verify his intentions and possibly exonerate him.

Presiding Judge Seng Leang responded by saying that he will look into locating the documents.

Mr Sok then requested that the judges play Mr Ricketson’s footage from the CNRP rally in 2017, which showed security forces watching over party supporters.

Mr Sok asked Mr Ricketson what the purpose of the footage was and Mr Ricketson said that it was normal for journalists to take such footage.

Kong Sam Onn, Mr Ricketson’s lawyer, said yesterday that the evidence presented by prosecutors was not credible and it does not prove that his client is guilty.

Mr Sam Onn said that the judges should be more suspicious because his client has been held for more than a year.

The trial is expected to continue on today. If convicted, Mr Ricketson could face up to ten years in prison.

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