Cambodia court delays Ricketson bail decision

Accused Australian spy James Ricketson is escorted into a Phnom Penh court on Wednesday where he made a strong appeal to be released on bail from one of Cambodia’s notoriously harsh jails.Photos: Nara Lon Australian filmmaker James Ricketson has been arrested in Phnom Penh and accused of spying, according to Fresh News, an on-line site close Cambodia??????s ruling party. Photos: Supplied

Bangkok: Accused Australian spy James Ricketson walked into a Cambodian court on Wednesday, raised his cuffed hands and shouted “there is no evidence. I am treated like this all the time.”

Ricketson then made a passionate plea to be released on bail from a notoriously harsh Cambodian jail.

“If I am guilty of espionage then the court would convict me. But it can’t. Based on the law, I am not guilty and should be bailed, and the charge against me should be dropped,” he said.

Sixty-eight year-old Ricketson, who has health problems, said he could not leave the country because his passport and $50,000 worth of camera equipment has been seized.

Speaking with reporters while being escorted back to jail, he said “No witness, no complaint, no victim. This is Cambodian law”.

Ricketson faces up to 10 years in jail on espionage charges that lawyers say relates to his alleged links to the country’s now-disbanded opposition party, which has been accused of attempting to overthrow strongman Hun Sen in a purported United States-backed conspiracy.

More than a dozen police confronted Ricketson and carried him away from Phnom Penh’s riverfront in June as he flew a drone over a political rally of the Cambodian National Rescue Party, whose leaders have been jailed, are in hiding or have fled the country.

Analysts say the supposed conspiracy has provided Hun Sen, one of the world’s most notorious autocrats, with an excuse to target his political opponents as he shrugs off any pretence of democracy.

Opposition figures and the US have strongly denied involvement in any conspiracy.

For years, Ricketson was a familiar figure at opposition and protest rallies in Phnom Penh, where he had been filming a documentary on a former street beggar he has supported for decades.

He has told an earlier court hearing he came to Cambodia “to help poor people and make films, not to be a spy”.

He has also supported scavengers who work a rubbish dump on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Ricketson has been held in pre-trial detention since June in Prey Sar prison where he shares a cell with 27 others.

“I am still confused as to what I have done other than flying a drone without a permit to deserve such punishment,” Ricketson wrote from the cell.

Support for Ricketson is growing in Australia where thousands of people have signed a petition calling for his release and criticising the Turnbull government for failing to intervene in his case. Australia has a deal to send refugees from the off-shore detention centre in Nauru to Cambodia.

Australian journalist Peter Greste, a press freedom advocate who was jailed along with two other Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, has thrown his support behind the Ricketson campaign.

People who know Ricketson say any suggestion he was spying is ludicrous.

The Turnbull government is providing consular assistance but insists it cannot intervene in any foreign country to attempt to obtain the release of a jailed Australian.

The court is expected to deliver its verdict on his bail application on January 17.

– With Nara Lon, Phnom Penh

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