Three judges decided Ricketson, 69, had spent 20 years using documentary projects and humanitarian work as a cover to collect information to endanger national security.
After the verdict, Ricketson asked the gallery: “Which country am I spying for?”
No answer to that question was provided during the case.
“Since he arrived in Cambodia, the accused person has been collecting political, social and economic information about Cambodia and sending it to a foreign state,” prosecutor Sieng Sok told the court. “He has kept collecting this information for 22 years, until the day he was arrested. The accused person was using his journalism job and helping poor Cambodians just to hide his real work, but in fact, he is a spy and has been filming at the sites of the country’s security forces.”
Prosecution evidence included photos and emails taken from his computer supposedly showing he was in Cambodia with the “intention to incite hatred”.
Ricketson was detained in June 2017 after he flew a drone without permission over an opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party rally. The party was subsequently outlawed, ensuring an easy win for the Cambodian People’s Party in the July general election.
Cambodia’s compliant media labelled him an “important spy” in a US-backed plot to create a “colour revolution” against the veteran prime minister, Hun Sen.
The Australian government is under pressure to be more outspoken on the case. The foreign minister, Marise Payne only said Ricketson would receive full consular assistance. “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,” Payne said, in a surprisingly spineless response.
Ricketson’s son, Jesse, who has moved to Phnom Penh to coordinate the legal efforts, said the family was “utterly devastated” by the verdict.
“All my thoughts are for my dad and how he must be feeling right now, sitting in a hot prison truck facing what could be the last years of his life in jail,” he told the media.
The family said it would appeal against the decision.
Australian filmmaker James Ricketson is taken away from the court. Picture credit: YouTube