Australian filmmaker James Ricketson accused of drone ‘spying’ denied bail by Cambodia’s Supreme Court

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An Australian filmmaker detained last year on spying charges after he flew a drone over an opposition rally was denied bail on Tuesday.

James Ricketson, 68, was arrested in the capital Phnom Penh in June after he was pictured flying the drone over a campaign rally by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

The party was dissolved several months later in a controversial court verdict that capped a years-long crackdown on the opposition under strongman premier Hun Sen.

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Supreme Court Judge Soeng Panhavuth said during a brief hearing on Tuesday that Ricketson’s bail request had been rejected because “the investigation is still underway”.

Ricketson has been charged “with acts of collecting information which may undermine national defence”.

Flying a drone in capital Phnom Penh is banned without official permission. Ricketson could face between five and 10 years in jail if convicted of espionage.

“The Ricketson family … are obviously very disappointed by the outcome of today’s proceedings,” Alexandra Kennett, the partner of Ricketson’s son Jesse, told reporters outside the court.

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She added that the family was worried about the 68-year-old’s health and the “incredibly cramped conditions” in a cell shared with 140 others.

This is not the first time Ricketson has faced the courts in Cambodia, where he has lived for years and was said to be working on a documentary.

In 2014, he was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence for allegedly threatening to broadcast allegations that a Brisbane church working in Cambodia had sold children.

In 2016, he was fined after a court found him guilty of defaming Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), an NGO that hunts paedophiles, for accusing the group of manipulating witnesses.

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