Australian filmmaker James Ricketson was sentenced this Friday to six years in a Cambodian prison. The 69-year-old filmmaker was arrested in June 2017 after he flew a drone at an opposition party rally. Recently, a Cambodian court charged him for espionage and sentenced him to jail.
According to TIME Magazine, Ricketson has already been held in pre-trial detention ever since he was arrested, for over a year. He was accused of “collecting information that could be damaging to national defense,” which got him arrested back in 2017.
ABC writes that Ricketson has been a regular visitor to Cambodia for more than 20 years. He was witnessing the struggles of the poor and filming documentaries to give voice to them. According to the same source, the filmmaker has also been a critic of the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Shortly after Ricketson was arrested, the government-friendly media reportedly called him “an important spy.” He was accused that the material he filmed over the course of 23 years was merely a cover for espionage. Although, it was never specified what country he was allegedly spying for.
According to ABC, ever since Ricketson was arrested, more than 1,600 pages of evidence were taken from his laptop and translated. And there was reportedly only one thing that could be linked to any foreign government. There was a letter to the Prime Minister the time, Malcolm Turnbull, which suggested that he withdrew an invitation for Hun Sen to visit Australia in 2016.
In a statement regarding the arrest, Ricketson wrote that he tried to “support and bring aide and be of service to the poor” during his time in Cambodia.
“I am a filmmaker and a journalist, I have not committed the crime for which I have been sentenced. The evidence presented at my trial did not substantiate this outcome.”
Some statements from the family. This one is from Roxanne Holmes, his adopted Australian daughter. It includes some remarks from Ricketson too. pic.twitter.com/rhJdxAzp4o
— Erin Handley (@erinahandley) August 31, 2018
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Sky News that it’s important to deal with the situation “calmly and directly.” He added that Ricketson “can expect to get all the consular and other support from the Australian government you would expect in these circumstances.”
Ricketson’s daughter Roxanne Holmes said in a statement that this is “effectively a death sentence” for a man of 69 and in poor health. She added that the family would continue the fight for this “good, kind and compassionate man.” James Ricketson’s son Jesse Ricketson told TIME Magazine that the family was going to keep doing everything they can so this situation is brought to an end as quick as possible.
[via TIME Magazine]