Australian filmmaker given 6 years on espionage by Cambodian court

Australian filmmaker James Ricketson was today sentenced to six years in prison by Phnom Penh municipal court after he was found guilty of espionage for flying a drone over an opposition party’s political rally, according to Reuters.

The 69-year old Australian was arrested last June after he was photographed flying a drone above the rally organized by the now-defunct Cambodia National Rescue Party.  He was charged with espionage although it remains unclear for whom he was spying.  His family called the court sentence an “absolute tragedy”.

Ricketson appeared in court wearing a pink prison uniform and holding a copy of the spy thriller book “The Faithful Spy” by Alex Berenson.

Speaking in court after the verdict, he expressed disbelief.  “Which country was I conducting espionage for?” he asked.

“James is almost 70 and is not in good health, our family is very scared about what will happen to him in there if things take a turn for the worst,” said Ricketson’s family in a statement following the verdict.

“James is not a spy. James loves Cambodia and the Cambodian people.  He is a filmmaker and a humanitarian,” the family said.

Ricketsen has been visiting Cambodia for more than 20 years, producing documentaries about the country and its people.

His son, Jesse Ricketson, said the court’s verdict was an “absolute tragedy”.