Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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The Press
February 18 2006

NZ intervenes for Kiwi jailed in Cambodia
by Matthew Torbit

New Zealand diplomats have intervened in the case of a Kiwi man serving 20 years in a Cambodian prison on sex charges -- after the teenage girls all retracted their evidence against him.

Graham Cleghorn, 55, a former aid worker, is being held at Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison after he was jailed for 20 years in February 2004.

The New Zealand Government had already raised concerns at the handling of Cleghorn's original trial -- which took just nine hours. He was refused a translator, denied the right to call his own witnesses and was not allowed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

Now diplomats have again been forced to act on Cleghorn's behalf after his appeal was conducted without his knowledge or participation.

The unsuccessful appeal, secretly held last month, did not allow Cleghorn to present written statements from all five woman he was convicted of raping and stating the sex crimes did not happen.

The appeal was thrown out of a Siam Reap court on January 11 without Cleghorn being notified or present.

Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry spokeswoman Helen Tunnah said the Government had been monitoring Cleghorn's situation since he was jailed but decided to act after news of the appeal dismissal emerged.

New Zealand's ambassador in Bangkok, Peter Rider, met a representative at Cambodia's embassy this week to outline this country's "grave" concerns about Cleghorn's appeal being heard in absentia, Tunnah said.

"The ambassador pointed out neither Cleghorn, his lawyer or New Zealand officials had been told the appeal was to be heard and asked for an explanation as to how this came about.

"It was emphasised that this had denied Mr Cleghorn the opportunity to present a case, which breached his right to a fair hearing."

Tunnah said embassy staff were awaiting a response from Cambodian officials.

Cleghorn's two daughters have hired prominent Wellington lawyer Greg King, who said he was disgusted at the legal processes surrounding the case. He described the appeal dismissal as a "breach of fundamental natural justice in every sense".

Cleghorn had pinned all of his hopes for freedom on the appeal, he said.

King said his client was a victim of a corrupt non-government organisation, the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, which was seeking millions of dollars of foreign funding that had been poured into South-east Asia to stop child prostitution with Western men.

"Organisations have popped up to get their hands on this funding, and the way to do this is to catch people involved in the illicit sex trade, which Graham's been caught up in," King said.

"He was tried in a court in appalling conditions and circumstances where the evidence was not translated, he was not permitted to call witnesses or challenge the testimony of those that gave evidence against him -- that's pretty basic stuff of any criminal system."

In a statement published soon after his conviction, Cleghorn said he was framed by corrupt officials, including Siam Reap District Court Judge Ten Senarong who wanted land he owned near the ancient temple Angkor Wat.

Bronwyn Sloan, a Cambodian-based Australian and Cleghorn supporter, said she visited Cleghorn in prison before he found out the appeal had been thrown out.

"He was holding it together but he does have health problems."

Cleghorn's Cambodian wife, Der, and their six-year-old son were distraught at his treatment, Sloan said. --Dominion Post