|Peter Weir and Alexandra Kennett, partner of James Ricketson’s son, after Weir testified in James Ricketson’s trial. Photograph: Suy Se/AFP/Getty Images|
Director Peter Weir testifies for James Ricketson in Cambodian court
The Guardian | 16 August 2018
Acclaimed Australian director Peter Weir has told a Cambodian court his friend and alleged spy James Ricketson is a victim of an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”
Weir appeared as a character witness for fellow filmmaker Ricketson, who is accused of espionage after flying a drone over an opposition political rally before local elections in June last year.
“He’s an artist, don’t misunderstand him,” Weir told a panel of three judges on Thursday. “We’re strange people but we’re pretty harmless.”
Weir admitted Ricketson could annoy people with his opinions but said he was “a free thinker like me” and was not a member of any political party.
Weir, the director of films such as Gallipoli and Dead Poets Society, spoke eloquently and gripped the public gallery as he took the stand for more than an hour on Thursday.
He said Ricketson had visited him more than a year ago and told him how he wanted to film from above an island and so he had bought a drone.
“I saw the shots and they were beautiful. James is totally a non-violent man but he’s always filming with his camera,” he told the court.
Dressed in prison orange and looking tired, having lost weight after more than a year in prison, Ricketson was met in the packed court room by family and friends, including Weir.
The 69-year-old produced 1,600 pages of evidence, handed to him by Cambodian prosecutors alleging he was a spy and that this dated back to when he first visited the country in 1995.
Ricketson said the documents were taken from his computer and included emails to journalists, non-governmental organisations and the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
Ricketson said some of the emails were sent to opposition politicians, including Sam Rainsy, former leader of the now-banned Cambodian National Rescue party.
But he said those emails were conducted in the normal course of business between a journalist and a politician.
Ricketson’s case was tied to the CNRP ahead of elections held three weeks ago that were marred by controversy.
“There’s not one shred of evidence in there to support claims I am a spy,” he said before the start of his trial.
“I had to come up,” Weir said outside the court. “He’s been one of my best friends for 45 years and we live in the same suburb.”
Ricketson told judge Seng Leang his home address was in Palm Beach in Sydney.
Ricketson’s case faced a further delay after his lawyer surprised the court with a further bail application, which was again rejected.
His trial was adjourned until 20 August.