Australian documentary filmmaker James Ricketson was convicted today of espionage for an unnamed country by the Cambodian government and sentenced to six years in that country’s prison system.
Ricketson was arrested in June 2017 and charged with endangering national security by flying a drone over an opposition party rally. The charges mushroomed from there.
The soon-to-be 69-year-old filmmaker’s incarceration has sparked international outrage by his fellow filmmakers, most prominently director Phillip Noyce (Salt, Patriot Games, Dead Calm), with many fearing he won’t survive the rigors of Cambodian prison.
“The guilty verdict against James Ricketson is a massive miscarriage of justice,” Noyce posted on Facebook. “I call on filmmakers the world over to join me in offering ourselves to Cambodian authorities as equally guilty of all the crimes James is accused of. We must journey to Cambodia and present our selves on mass as ready to join him in Cambodian prison. If James is guilty, we are all equally guilty.”
The Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG) called on the Australian government to intervene on Ricketson’s behalf.
“We call on the new foreign minister, Marise Payne, to contact her counterpart in Cambodia and seek clemency for James and for him to be sent home” ADG CEO Kingston Anderson said in a statement.
“Based on the evidence and what we know of James we do not believe he was spying for anyone. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and may have contravened some local regulations but he was not spying for any government.
The Australian government said Cambodian law tied their hands on what could be done.
“Mr Ricketson is subject to legal proceedings under Cambodian law and must now consider his response to the court’s decision using the avenues open to him under Cambodian law,” said a statement from Foreign Affairs minister Marise Payne. “The Australian Government will consider what further appropriate support we can provide after that time.”
Ricketson’s work has focused on life in Cambodia. Among his works is the documentary Sleeping with Cambodia, described by Screen Australia as an exploration of paedophilia and children at risk.
But beyond his filmmaking, Ricketson has been critical of Cambodian leader Hun Sen. That led to the charge that he was trying to foment a “color revolution” in the Southeast Asia country.