Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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The Press
February 27 2006

Long wait for Cambodia conviction appeal

A New Zealand man jailed for 20 years in Cambodia for sex crimes might still have months to wait before another appeal can be heard.

Former aid worker Graham Cleghorn, 55, was jailed in February 2004 and is being held in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison.

He is serving 20 years for the rape of five teenage girls a conviction he has said he is innocent of.

Earlier National Radio reported that last month an appeal had been heard in Cambodia on behalf of Cleghorn, yet he was not notified.

The unsuccessful appeal did not allow Cleghorn to present written statements from all five women he was convicted of raping which stated the sex crimes didn't take place.

New Zealand ambassador to Thailand Peter Rider said the embassy had been following Cleghorn's case ever since he was arrested.

"We've kept in touch with the appeal process all the way through and  most recently last October I think I wrote to the President of  the Appeal Court asking that we be kept advised as to when the next  appeal was specifically, so that we could attend and ensure that he had an interpreter present.

"We heard last month that in fact the appeal had taken place without our, or Mr Cleghorn or his lawyer knowing about it. We were a little surprised," Mr Rider told National Radio this morning.

He said that he did not think the court was dismissing New Zealand's concerns, but that it was just the way the judiciary worked sometimes.

It was reported recently in the media that a summons was served to Cleghorn before this most recent appeal, but the judge needed to hold the case quickly because the complainants had travelled down from up north where they lived and the judge couldn't wait for him to appear, Mr Rider said.

"So that is a point of fact that I will be wanting to talk to the President of the Appeal Court and the minister about, this question of serving of appeals and advice to us and the British Embassy of  what is happening."

Mr Rider said he was interested in due process and that Mr Cleghorn got a fair hearing, but he was aware that it might take some time to get through the judicial system.

"He's been in jail for two years. It has been more than a year now since the appeal process started. I don't think that's unusual in cases like this.

"I suspect there will be a degree of frustration by him and his family at the pace things proceed. We just need to make sure that it proceeds with the right steps at the right time so that he gets a chance to put his case to the judge."

Mr Rider said he hoped to see Cleghorn in the next few weeks and he expected to get some advice on whether he could reappeal the earlier appeal and when that would happen.