James Ricketson Pardoned by Cambodia After Espionage Conviction

Australian filmmaker James Ricketson pardoned for espionage

Ricketson was originally arrested a year ago for using a drone to film a political opposition rally, as part of strongman Hun Sen's crackdown on the press ahead of national elections.

It added that the request for the pardon came from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In the royal decree, the country's Acting Head of State Samdech Say Chhum said he granted a pardon to convict James Ricketson, 69, who was convicted on August 31 of spying and collecting information that could jeopardize national security and was sentenced to six years in prison.

It is unclear whether it was a royal pardon or one sanctioned by the Senate President Say Chhum, but earlier this month Ricketson's son James told 730 his father would seek a royal pardon instead of appealing his conviction. The opposition had made a strong showing in 2017 local elections, building on its surprisingly strong challenge in the 2013 general election.

Under Cambodian law a pardon can not be issued until the appeals process has been exhausted or dropped.

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Ricketson, 69, was sentenced to six years in a trial his sympathizers described as farcical because prosecutors never specified whom he was spying for and failed to present evidence that he possessed or transmitted any secrets.

He was detained on pre-trial detention for over a year before his sentencing and subsequent release.

Ricketson repeatedly insisted he had no political agenda and his work making documentary films was journalistic in nature.

Ricketson's lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, said his client would go first to Phnom Penh and then travel to Australia.

The prosecution alleged Ricketson was spying for "foreign states" but declined to say which ones or call any witnesses to substantiate the charges.

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