PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — An Australian filmmaker charged with endangering Cambodian national security for flying a drone over a campaign rally had his trial postponed for a month on Friday after already spending a year in jail.
James Ricketson, 69, looked frail as he was led into Phnom Penh Municipal Court to face the charge of collecting information prejudicial to national defense, for which he could be imprisoned for five to 10 years. The charge is tantamount to one of espionage.
“I’m hoping that I’ll find out today which country I’m spying for,” he shouted defiantly to reporters as he was led, in shackles and an orange prison uniform, from a truck into the court house. “I haven’t been informed which country I am spying for, yet. I would love to know.”
The court postponed his trial because his lawyer was absent and because Ricketson requested it, saying he wanted to see what evidence was collected against him. He said that he has seen nothing but the charge against him, and hopes that during the month’s delay he can see all relevant documents and evidence. He has been denied release on bail.
As he was being loaded back on to the truck to take him back to prison, he made the same point to reporters, shouting: “No evidence! No evidence at all that I am guilty of any crime!”
He was arrested in June last year after using a drone to film the final rally of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party before local elections. The party has since been dissolved, as part of a sweeping crackdown on opposition against the government of long-standing authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen. That crackdown has also included the media.
According to his family, Ricketson has been detained in a 6-by-16-meter (20-by-52-foot) cell along with 140 other prisoners, and in May he was reportedly taken ill with a chest ailment and moved to the prison hospital.