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Cambodian Court Jails Australian Filmmaker For Six Years For Espionage

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Cambodian Court Jails Australian Filmmaker For Six Years For Espionage

A Cambodian court jailed an Australian filmmaker for six years on Friday after finding him guilty of espionage for flying a drone over an opposition party rally.

James Ricketson, 69, was arrested last June after he was photographed flying the drone above the rally organized by the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) before communal elections.

Ricketson was charged with espionage, although it remains unclear for whom he was spying. His family called the court sentence an “absolute tragedy”.

“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has decided to convict James Ricketson and sentences him to six years in prison for espionage and collecting information that is harmful to the nation between December 2010 and June 2017,” Judge Seng Leang said.

Ricketson, who has spent more than a year behind bars after his bail was denied, appeared in court wearing a pink prison uniform and holding a copy of the thriller book ‘The Faithful Spy’ by Alex Berenson.

Speaking in court after the verdict, Ricketson 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,” Ricketson’s family said in a statement following the verdict, referring to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison where Ricketson has been jailed.

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

During hearings that began last week the prosecution argued that Ricketson’s work had damaged Cambodia’s reputation on the world stage.

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

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

“It’s very difficult to imagine what the future holds now for my dad. I’m absolutely terrified for him,” he added.

“We are really looking for a lot more support moving forward from the new Australian government,” Ricketson’s nephew, Bim Ricketson, told reporters in Sydney.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Ricketson can expect further consular assistance and that the government had previously approached Cambodia directly about the case.

“As usual with these types of events, it’s best I think to deal with these things calmly, directly and in a way that best assists the citizen,” he told reporters in Jakarta.

‘EXCESSIVE CHARGES’

In a letter to Cambodia’s long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen last month, Ricketson apologized for statements to media that were disrespectful to Hun Sen.

Ricketson’s arrest came amid a wider crackdown on freedom of expression by Hun Sen’s government and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

The CPP last month claimed victory following a controversial general election which was largely unopposed.

Rights groups said the July 29 vote was neither free nor fair given the absence of a significant challenger to Hun Sen, who has ruled for 33 years.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the trial exposed flaws in Cambodia’s judicial system.

“This trial exposed everything that’s wrong with the Cambodian judicial system: ridiculously excessive charges, prosecutors with little or no evidence, and judges carrying out political orders from the government rather than ruling based on what happens in court,” Robertson said in a statement.

African News

Swahili Fashion Week Showcases Hottest Designs In East Africa

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Swahili Fashion Week Showcases Hottest Designs In East Africa

The Swahili Fashion Week, the biggest fashion event in East Africa, showcased some hot new designs in Dar Es Salaam. Designers, investors, models and fans gathered to celebrate the latest clothing creations.

The four-day event was the eleventh annual Swahili Fashion Week with this year’s theme centering on the promotion of the Swahili language.

For more than a decade, the show has emphasized that fashion is an income-generating creative industry. At the same time, it promotes a “made in Africa” concept.

Many designers combined their creations with elements of the local culture and the Swahili language.

More than forty designers presented their works. The event was a platform for up and coming young designers to demonstrate their talents and ideas.

Organizers and designers say their goal is to make the event the most sought after fashion platform in Africa for the international market.

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African News

Fashion Designers And Models Celebrate 20th International Festival Of African Fashion

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Fashion Designers And Models Celebrate 20th International Festival Of African Fashion

Artists from all over Africa gathered together last week in Dakhla, Morocco to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA), a noted biennial fashion show in Africa.

The four-day landmark event on the continent’s artistic life is considered a platform for young and aspiring designers and models. Thirty-five designers from different African countries showcased their creative ideas in front of a huge audience.

Hadya Sinno, a stylist from Lebanon, said she was very impressed by the event.

The fashion show was divided into three categories, fashion designers, accessories designers, and models.  Prizes were handed out for the best in each category. For participants, it was more than just a competition; it was also a display of talent.

Since 1998, FIMA has been a unique platform for culture exchanges in Africa as a catalyst for development, peace, and rapprochement.

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African News

Dakar Film Festival Attracts International Attention

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Dakar Film Festival Attracts International Attention

The on-going Dakar Film Festival in Senegal has attracted a thousand participants including sixty international film professionals, and film makers from around the world to showcase their works in Africa.

During the week-long event, sixty films from 32 countries are expected to be screened. Renowned African directors will showcase some of their works, and films from India, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe will also be viewed. The Senegalese government has fully supported the event.

The annual Dakar Film Festival provides an opportunity to showcase local and international films that aim to promote cultural diversity and understanding among people of different cultural backgrounds.

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