MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The household of an Australian filmmaker pardoned by Cambodia after being jailed on espionage fees mentioned on Saturday it was blissful the “nightmare” got here to an finish, whereas the Australian overseas minister thanked the federal government in Phnom Penh for his launch.
Australian filmmaker James Ricketson gestures as he leaves the Municipal Courtroom of Phnom Penh, Cambodia August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Samrang Pring
James Ricketson, 69, was free of Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar jail on Friday after a court docket sentenced him in August to 6 years in jail for damaging the nation’s status.
He was arrested in June 2017 after being photographed flying a drone above a rally organized by the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia Nationwide Rescue Occasion (CNRP) earlier than communal elections.
“We’re simply so relieved and enthusiastic about this information,” Ricketson’s son, Jesse, instructed Reuters in an e-mailed assertion.
“It nonetheless hasn’t actually sunk in. It has been a extremely robust 16 months and I’m simply type of in shock proper now. We want to provide our hugest gratitude to King Norodom Sihamoni for exhibiting us compassion and bringing this nightmare to an finish.”
Australian International Minister Marise Payne additionally thanked her Cambodian counterpart for the discharge. “This ends a distressing time for Mr. Ricketson and his household,” Payne mentioned in an e-mailed assertion.
Jesse Ricketson mentioned the household has been involved about his father’s well being as he approaches 70.
“We’re undecided how lengthy he may have continued to endure the situations of the infamous Prey Sar jail,” he mentioned.
He added the household anticipated Ricketson in Australia “very quickly”, in all probability on Sunday.
The filmmaker has been visiting Cambodia for greater than 20 years, producing documentaries concerning the nation and its folks.
His arrest got here amid a wider crackdown on freedom of expression by Hun Sen’s authorities and his Cambodian Folks’s Occasion (CPP). The CPP in July claimed victory following a controversial normal election which was largely unopposed.
Rights teams mentioned the July 29 vote was neither free nor honest given the absence of a major challenger to Hun Sen, who has dominated for 33 years.
Payne mentioned on Saturday that the Division of International Affairs and Commerce would proceed to supply Ricketson with consular help, however because of “privateness concerns” wouldn’t make any additional statements on his launch.
Further reporting by Len Leng in PHNOM PENH and Colin Packham in MELBOURNE; Modifying by Nick Macfie