Cambodia Convicts Australian Filmmaker of Spying as Media Crackdown Widens

James Ricketson in a Cambodian village before his arrest in June 2017

James Ricketson in a Cambodian village before his arrest in June 2017

Shortly after a trio of judges in Phnom Penh handed down the verdict, the 69-year-old was whisked away in a prison van, shouting, "Which country am I spying for?"

Ricketson has been detained without bail in Cambodia since his arrest and has repeatedly said he has no political agenda and that his work making documentary films is journalistic in nature.

The Australian has already spent 15 months in Phnom Penh jail since his arrest.

He also criticised what he said was inaction by the Australian government in "failing to publicly and consistently challenge this ludicrous charade and demand Ricketson's immediate and unconditional release".

He told the court he hoped its verdict would be decided on the basis of the evidence and that he would get justice.

In the letter to Turnbull, Ricketson urged the then PM to cut aid to Cambodia and refrain from welcoming Hun Sen into Australia, citing examples of the premier's autocratic behavior.

Nearly two dozen jailed critics or opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government have been freed in recent weeks following a sweeping ruling party election victory.

The party's dissolution by a court ruling last year assured Hun Sen's party of its sweeping victory in the July general elections, which returned Hun Sen to office for five more years.

Ricketson shouts inside a prison truck as he leaves the court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 31, 2018. His lawyer, Kong Sam Oun, said: "James has done a lot of good here, nothing to do with spying". James loves Cambodia and the Cambodian people.

He said the family was unsure what steps to take next yet but were "hoping and praying for generosity and leniency and compassion to be shown".

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"This is absolutely devastating for James and for us, and for his family, and his friends, and everyone".

"It has, and continues to be a truly brutal experience".

Members of Ricketson's family at a news conference in Sydney said they were counting on their government's assistance.

"It's very hard to imagine what the future holds now for my dad".

"When it comes to a conviction in a Cambodian court, clearly no facts are required".

Phil Robertson, of Human Rights Watch, decried the...

"This trial exposed everything that's wrong with the Cambodian judicial system: ridiculously excessive charges, prosecutors with little or no evidence, and judges carrying out political orders from the government rather than ruling based on what happens in court".

"This is more proof that Australia's softly, quietly approach towards Southeast Asian dictators is not just morally bankrupt - it's also totally ineffective", said Robertson.

"As usual with these types of events, it's best I think to deal with these things calmly, directly and in a way that best assists the citizen", Morrison told reporters in Jakarta.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne raised no concerns with the handling of the case in a statement released shortly after the verdict, instead stressing that Ricketson needed to consider any response using the "avenues open to him under Cambodian law". "Obviously, we won't be giving up", the younger Ricketson said.

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