Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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Dominion Post
February 23 2006

Save my dad, daughter begs Kiwi politicians
by Matthew Torbit


Please help him: Graham Cleghorn in the grounds of Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison with his daughter Heidi Madeley. The photo was taken secretly during her last visit, in August last year, by another inmate, with a camera hidden under his shirt.

 

The daughter of jailed Kiwi Graham Cleghorn is calling on New Zealand politicians to step in to save her seriously ill father, who she believes will be dead within months as he "rots" in his squalid Cambodian prison cell.

Cleghorn, 58, a former Wellington traffic officer, paramedic and aid worker, is serving 20 years in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar maximum security prison after having been convicted of raping five teenage Cambodian girls. He maintains his innocence.

Cleghorn's New Zealand lawyer, Greg King, called yesterday for stronger political intervention and said if Cleghorn was Australian, that country's prime minister, John Howard, would have spoken out by now in support of a fair trial.

But Prime Minister Helen Clark said last night that she could not comment because she had not been briefed on Cleghorn's case.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said he had been briefed but had asked the ministry to take care of, and monitor, the situation.

He had authorised New Zealand officials to visit Phnom Penh, but could not comment further.

One of Cleghorn's five daughters, Heidi Madeley, last visited her father in August and said he was so ill and emaciated she did not recognise him.

"He's lost a lot of weight. He's lost most of his teeth because of the prison diet. What little food he does get he can't chew. He's getting sicker and sicker by the minute."

Cleghorn has been held in a small and filthy cell with 40 other prisoners for more than a year.

He sleeps on a thin foam mattress given to him by Cambodian supporters who travel more than 200 kilometres from his village to visit.

He receives no medical attention and is not fed enough to survive, relying on outside help for extra food and medicine.

Mrs Madeley, 33, who now lives in Perth with her family, ran a tourism business with her father in Siem Reap in the late 1990s.

She said Cleghorn was suffering from cramps in his chest and legs, and showing signs of emphysema.

"He is going to die very soon. It's either that or he's going to kill himself."

She and her sisters staunchly backed their father's innocence. "Because we are talking about sex charges everyone instantly chastises you.

"At the time (of his sentence) he was portrayed in the media as being guilty. Dad's got five daughters – a man who's got five daughters doesn't go around behaving like that."

Cleghorn says a corrupt judge wanted his land and enlisted his sister, head of the Siem Reap Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, to bribe teenage girls to press rape charges against him.

Last month, his appeal was conducted and dismissed without his knowledge.

Early this week, Swiss national Rudolf Knuchel, who also owned land in Cambodia, endorsed Cleghorn's innocence. Mr Knuchel spent 57 days in a Cambodian prison when false rape claims were brought against him by the CWCC.

He said the judge in question had since been dismissed for corruption.

Last week, New Zealand's ambassador to Bangkok, Peter Rider, met representatives from Cambodia's embassy in Thailand to outline New Zealand's "grave" concerns about the legal processes surrounding Cleghorn's case.

A Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman said if no response was received by the end of the week, Mr Rider would seek meetings with Justice Ministry officials in Phnom Penh.