Tony Abbott throws support behind Australian filmmaker jailed in Cambodia James Ricketson
ABC | 23 May 2018
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has met with supporters of James Ricketson — an Australian filmmaker detained in Cambodia on spying charges — and called for his release.
Mr Abbott met with Roxanne Holmes, who lives in his constituency and was adopted by Mr Ricketson decades ago.
The Liberal Party backbencher later added a message of support to Ms Holmes's online petition campaign, that has gathered more than 74,000 signatures.
"James Ricketson should not have been gaoled for flying a photographic drone over a political meeting in Cambodia and he should not have been held for 12 months without charge," Mr Abbott wrote on the change.org petition.
"Our government should firmly indicate to the Cambodian government that it's past time for him to be released on humanitarian grounds and allowed to return to Australia."
Mr Ricketson has been charged with espionage, which appears to be connected to his relationship with the Cambodian opposition party.
He has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest on June 3 last year, with bail rejected and no date set for a trial.
This month Mr Ricketson was moved to an infirmary within the overcrowded Prey Sar prison, with a chest infection and other complaints.
He had been sharing a cell with 126 other inmates.
Mr Ricketson has been a frequent visitor to Cambodia over the past 20 years, filming documentaries and providing humanitarian assistance to Cambodians living on the street or at a city dumpsite.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has written to her Cambodian counterpart Prak Sokhon, but the contents of the letter have not been revealed.
Mr Ricketson is known as an energetic letter-writer and has continued to pen critiques of the Australian Government and the local embassy from jail.
The arrest of the Australian comes amid a wider crackdown on media and political freedom in Cambodia, ahead of a 29 July election.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled for 33 years and has threatened to unleash civil war if his ruling Cambodian People's Party loses the vote.
The former Khmer Rouge fighter has used the courts to disband the main opposition party and jail it's leader on treason charges, widely considered to be politically motivated.
Australia has called for free and fair elections but is diplomatically constrained by its $55 million refugee deal with Cambodia, which has resettled three people from Nauru.