James Rickets: Filmmaker flies to Australia after Cambodia pardon

Australian filmmaker James Ricketson has arrived in Sydney days after receiving a royal pardon from Cambodian King, Norodom Sihamoni.

Ricketson was convicted to a six-year jail sentence for espionage that he received last year after flying a drone above a rally organised by the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

“I’ll be going back as soon as I can but I’ll need to recover obviously,” Ricketson said upon his arrival at Sydney airport.

His arrest happened during a wider governmental crackdown on freedom of expression under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling.

The 69-year-old filmmaker was found guilty in August for spying and collecting information harmful to the nation following a trial that was criticised by rights activists.

Ricketson, who spent more than a year, behind bars, denied the charges and sought a pardon from King Sihamoni. On Friday, he was released from Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison.

Greeted by family and friends at the airport, they thanked the king for bringing their “nightmare” to an end.

Australia’s foreign ministry also thanked Cambodia for the release of Ricketson who has been visting Cambodia for more than 20 years.

In a letter to Hun Sen last month, the filmmaker apologised for statements made to the media that were disrespectful to the long-serving prime minister.

In July, Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) claimed victory following a general election in which it was largely unopposed.

Rights groups argued that the vote was neither free nor fair given the absence of a signifcant challenger to Hun Sen, who has ruled for 33 years.

SOURCE: Reuters news agency

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