Cambodia pardons Australian filmmaker James Ricketson jailed for espionage

James Ricketson was sentenced to six years in prison for flying a drone over a rally organised by the main opposition party, which has been dissolved

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 8:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 8:54pm

Cambodia has granted a pardon to an Australian filmmaker jailed in August on espionage charges for six years, a court in the capital, Phnom Penh, said on Friday.

In a warrant, the municipal court ordered the release of James Ricketson because he had received a royal pardon, it said in a statement.

“Having fully understood the royal decree, James Ricketson … should be freed,” it added.

Ricketson, 69, was arrested in June 2017 after he was photographed flying a drone above a rally organised by the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) before communal elections.

“Convict James Stanforth Ricketson is pardoned,” said the royal decree signed by acting head of state Say Chhum.

It added that the request for the pardon came from strongman premier Hun Sen.

Ricketson’s lawyer Kong Sam Onn confirmed Ricketson had been released and was with his family.

His son Jesse said the family was “relieved and excited” to have him back.

“It has been a really tough 16 months and I’m just kind of in shock now,” Jesse said, expressing gratitude to Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni for “bringing this nightmare to an end”.

The filmmaker, who has been visiting Cambodia for more than 20 years, producing documentaries about the country and its people, was charged with espionage but it is unclear for whom he was supposed to be spying.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse