The trial of Australian filmmaker James Ricketson began in Cambodia on Thursday, with a panel of judges grilling a character witness over the accused spy’s finances and links to the Australian Government.
Fourteen months after Mr Ricketson was arrested and charged for flying a photographic drone over a political rally in Phnom Penh, the court opened the trial, in which the accused faces up to ten years in prison on espionage charges that have been panned as disproportionate to the alleged crime.
Acclaimed Australian film director Peter Weir took the stand as the defendant’s first witness, and after a tedious back and forth regarding the specifics of his family and his work, Mr Weir opened a door for the prosecution, which is yet to provide any evidence to support allegations that Mr Ricketson posed a threat to Cambodia’s national security.
Under intense and repetitive questioning over Mr Ricketson’s political leanings, his body of work and his sources of funding, Mr Weir revealed through a translator that the accused had in the past received grants for film projects from “the Government”.
Mr Weir quickly clarified that he was referring specifically to the Australian Film Commission, but the judges and prosecutor seized on the opening, digging into the witness for details of Mr Ricketson’s collaborations with Canberra.