Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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The Dominion Post
September 12 2005

Kiwi fights Cambodian rape verdict
by Chalpat Sonti



The Government should step in to ensure a New Zealander convicted of raping teenage girls in Cambodia gets a fair shot at justice, a Wellington lawyer says.

Former Petone man Graham Cleghorn, aged in his mid 50s, was jailed last year for 20 years after he was found guilty of repeatedly raping five former employees. He was ordered to pay US$2000 (NZ$2800) to each girl's family. They had sought between US$5000 and US$10,000 each.

Cleghorn, who has lived in Cambodia since 1990, has appealed against the conviction. A summary of his trial by New Zealand diplomat Wendy Napier-Walker -- obtained by Cleghorn under the Official Information Act -- shows his trial lasted nine hours and that evidence against him was not translated into English. At the end of the hearing, the court was adjourned for 15 minutes and the judge then sentenced him.

Wellington lawyer Greg King, who reviewed the documents after being asked by Cleghorn's family to approach the New Zealand Government about the case, claimed there had been "a whole raft of outrageous abuses" surrounding the case.

The prosecution witnesses were not cross-examined, Cleghorn had been prevented from calling his own witnesses, and his Cambodian lawyer "didn't open his mouth" throughout the proceedings.

The founder of the women's rights group that encouraged the girls to bring the case against Cleghorn was a sister of the judge.

Since being jailed, Cleghorn had been moved from prison to prison so it was difficult for people to help him. A daughter, Heidi, who lives in Australia, had recently seen her father in jail. His family were "extremely worried" for his welfare.

"They're very upset and frustrated that he's been put in that situation and no one is helping him. From all accounts four of the girls have retracted (their claims) and it's pretty clear why they gave evidence," Mr King said.

The girls had allegedly been promised by the women's rights group that they would get US$10,000 each -- or the equivalent of 40 years' wages in Cambodia -- for their testimony.

Mr King planned to call on the Government to ensure Cleghorn's rights were respected at the appeal.

"There's a line between interfering in another country's justice system and ensuring New Zealand citizens are properly advised and represented. The New Zealand Government shouldn't stand by and allow this to happen to its citizens overseas."

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Emma Reilly said Cleghorn had told diplomats he did not need their assistance with regards to his appeal "at this stage".

The ministry would be prepared to provide assistance to ensure Cleghorn was provided with an interpreter, in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Cambodian Government had an obligation under the covenant to ensure among other things that Cleghorn was able to examine witnesses, to have the free assistance of an interpreter and to have a lawyer of his own choosing.