|Australian film-maker arrives in Cambodian court on espionage charge – video|
Australian film-maker 'learned of Cambodia espionage charges on grapevine'
AP / The Guardian | 15 June 2018
The trial of Australian film-maker and accused spy James Ricketson has been postponed in a Cambodian court after a bench of three judges granted him more time to prepare his defence.
Ricketson has told the Phnom Penh court he was told he would be charged with espionage only last week and he has not been served with a formal indictment.
“I have not been provided with a summons to appear in court,” he told Judge Seng Leang on Friday.
"I have no understanding of the statement of facts that is being used to indict me.
“I only have a one-page document from the prosecutor in which he recommends that I be indicted under article 446. The document provides no evidence that I am guilty of any crime at all.”
Ricketson has denied charges of espionage.
Prosecutors recently finished a year-long investigation, combing for evidence that might support charges of espionage tied to the now-dissolved opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).
The CNRP has been banned by the courts from contesting national elections on July 29 after the prime minister, Hun Sen, claimed its leaders were fomenting a revolution.
The court was expected to begin formal hearings on espionage charges on Friday.
Ricketson’s lawyer was not present, citing pressing business elsewhere.
Looking tired and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, Ricketson, 69, asked the court for a one-month delay.
“I only heard on the grapevine that I was to be charged with espionage,” he said.
Judge Seng Leang agreed with Ricketson’s submission, saying a fresh date would be set and the defence would be informed.
Ricketson’s case has been marked by repeated delays over bail hearings and investigations by prosecutors, with recent appearances restricted to question-and-answers over about 15,000 emails that were stored on his computer.
His health has deteriorated and he has scabies, a persistent chest infection and dizzy spells. In early May, he was transferred from a cramped cell to a prison infirmary.
Outside court, Ricketson’s son Jesse said he was relieved the delay was granted.
“We were surprised his case came up so quick,” he said, adding the decision to prosecute on breaches of national security was made only a week ago.
“Whether he’s actually been indicted is still an open question. We don’t know. We can’t proceed without one.”
Ricketson’s plight has moved many in Australia, where a petition calling for his release has received about 76,200 signatures.
The foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has written a letter to the Cambodian government on Ricketson’s behalf.