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.
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.
Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara Steps Down Over Alleged Sexual Misconduct Investigation Involving British Actress
Warner Bros chief Kevin Tsujihara, has stepped down amid an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. He is alleged to have offered to promote the career of British actress Charlotte Kirk, with whom he was having a sexual relationship.
In a statement by WarnerMedia, the actress through her spokesperson publicly denied any impropriety in her casting.
The CEO of WarnerMedia, John Stankey, said that Kevin stepped down as the chairman in the best interest of the company and everyone working under it.
“Kevin has contributed greatly to the studio’s success over the past 25 years and for that we thank him,” he added.
In a statement released by Tsujihara about his departure, he said, “I love this company and the people that make it great. I have been honored to head this organisation and work alongside all of its talented employees of the past 25 years.”
“Together we’ve build this studio into an unequivocal leader in the industry. However, it has become clear that my continued leadership could be a distraction and an obstacle to the company’s continued success. The hard work of everyone within our organisation is truly admirable, and I won’t let media attention on my past distract from all the great work the team is doing,” the 54-year-old said.
The personal lawyer of Tsujihaha’s also stated that Mr Tsujihara had no direct role in the hiring of this actress.
Egyptian Actor Amr Waked Fears Arrest Upon Return To Egypt Over Fake News
An Egyptian actor, Amr Waked, has told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Egyptian Embassy in Madrid had unofficially informed him that military courts have convicted him of spreading fake news and insulting the state.
The 45-year-old Egyptian actor, known for his roles in “Syriana,” “Lucy,” and the Netflix Series “Marco Polo,” currently lives in Europe. He is a well-known critic of president Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi’s government.
The two sentences amount to an eight-year prison term.
Waked also says an official embassy notice to him says his Egyptian passport could only be renewed if he personally returns to Egypt for the process.
A retired Egyptian intelligence official, Mohammed Rashad, says this is not the first time Amr waked has made public statement against the government of Egypt. He said waked had been warned before.
TAMPAN Commends FG’s Response To Baba Suwe’s Medical Treatment
A week ago, the story of Baba Suwe, Babatunde Omidina’s health challenges and admission to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, was told in many media outlets.
In it, national president of the Theater Arts and Motion Pictures Producers Association of Nigeria TAMPAN, Bolaji Amusan, also known as Mr. Latin, says the veteran actor is suffering from an undisclosed ailment.
Amusan said Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole had announced that the federal government will foot Omidina’s medical bills. He thanked the minister for making arrangements for LUTH to admit and treat the ailing actor. He also commended Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for donating a million naira toward Baba Suwe’s treatment.
We are telling the story again to let every Baba Suwe fan know that he is in good hands and is receiving great treatment.
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