Australian James Ricketson to seek Cambodian king’s pardon after spying conviction
Filmmaker’s family says he will not seek appeal against his sentence for espionage and six-year jail term, and will seek royal clemency instead
Australian filmmaker James Ricketson will not seek an appeal against his conviction for espionage and six-year jail term in Cambodia, instead choosing to seek a royal pardon, his family says.
“My father has decided to submit a plea for a king’s pardon. The Australian government has indicated to us that they will throw their full support behind this submission,” Ricketson’s son Jesse said on Wednesday.
“This is no longer a legal issue but a humanitarian one. It is a question of compassion and mercy. My dad is an old man with failing health suffering through incredibly difficult conditions.”
Ricketson, 69, was found guilty of espionage and collecting information for “foreign states” that was damaging to the national security of Cambodia, and was sentenced to six years in jail.
He was arrested in June last year after flying a drone over a political rally organised by the now-banned Cambodia National Rescue party (CNRP) without a permit.
“Six years in there will kill him,” Jesse Ricketson said. “We need to get him home. I, as his son, on behalf of all of his family and loved ones, am also personally asking for mercy so we can do so.”
Under Cambodian law a pardon cannot be issued until the appeals process has been exhausted or dropped. It is normally requested by the convicted, with the government then asking King Norodom Sihamoni for a royal approval.
The court heard Ricketson had captured footage of secret security deployments and offered it to the then-leader of the CNRP, Sam Rainsy, who now lives in exile.
However, prosecutors would not say for which country Ricketson was spying, despite repeated requests. Nor did prosecutors call a single witness in a trial that was widely criticised by human rights groups and media organisations as a farce and a show trial.
Human rights groups also criticised the Australian government for failing to publicly pressure the Cambodian government for its citizen’s release.
Ricketson’s plea for clemency comes amid increasing repression across Cambodia, and worsening levels of political violence.
The prime minister, Hun Sen, won an election in July that was marred by the outlawing of the country’s major opposition party, and was dismissed across the world as neither free nor fair.
The EU said the result was “not legitimate” and the White House said the poll was “flawed”.
Hun Sen’s party has claimed a remarkable 125 out of 125 parliamentary seats from the poll. The new parliament was opened on Wednesday, but the US, EU and Australia pointedly declined invitations to attend.
A spokesperson for Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade said: “Given Australia’s views on the flawed election process, Australia will not be represented at the inauguration of Cambodia’s national assembly.”
Ricketson’s adopted daughter, Roxanne Holmes, has pleaded for the Australian government to publicly advocate for her father’s release.
“Unless the Australian government responds quickly, my innocent dad could die in jail. I’m petrified – every day matters now as he gets sicker,” she said in a change.org petition that has garnered more than 100,000 signatures.