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Australian filmmaker jailed for espionage in Cambodia pleads for release

Jan. 11 (UPI) — An Australian filmmaker detained in Cambodia on espionage charges is pleading for release after more than seven months behind bars.

James Ricketson, 68, was in court in Phnom Penh this week to appeal two prior rejections of bail requests. He has been detained since June, when police arrested the documentary filmmaker after he flew a camera-equipped drone over anti-government protesters.

“I’ve just been beaten up by the police at Prey Sar prison. There’s no evidence that I’ve done anything wrong,” he told reporters, according to the Phnom Penh Post. “We’re transported in a tin can — with no water, no air conditioning. This is the kind of torture that’s inflicted on you whether you’re innocent or guilty.”

Ricketson faces 10 years for “receiving or collecting information, processes, objects, documents, computerized data or files with a view to supplying them to a foreign state or its agents, which are liable to prejudice the national defense.”

He denies the charges and says Cambodian officials haven’t told him which “foreign state” they believe he is spying for.

“When it became apparent that there was no evidence that I was guilty of espionage, I should have been released immediately,” he told judges during his bail request hearing. “I requested that I be at least told the country I was spying for — was it Australia, the U.S., France? Which country?”

Ricketson’s ordeal comes at a time when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has led a severe crack down on opposition groups, drawing condemnation from governments around the world.

And according to the Sydney Morning Herald, analysts say the espionage accusations against Ricketson has provided Hun Sen with an excuse to further attack his political opponents by alleging conspiracy and interference from outside governments.

Meanwhile, Ricketson’s supporters and family in Australia have pressured Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene on the filmmaker’s behalf.

“Unless the Australian government responds quickly, my innocent dad could die in jail,” Ricketson’s daughter, Roxanne Holmes, wrote in a petition. “I’m petrified — every day matters now as he gets sicker.”

So far, the Australian government has not commented on Ricketson’s case.

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