Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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The Dominion Post
October 2 2006

Cleghorn buoyed by legal move
by Matthew Torbit

New Zealander Graham Cleghorn -- jailed on rape charges in Cambodia -- is "buoyed" by news that three of his accusers have taken legal action against the rape crisis group that put him behind bars.

Three Cambodian mothers have claimed their children were kidnapped and falsely imprisoned by the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre in a bid to make them admit they had been sexually abused by Cleghorn.

Cleghorn's New Zealand-based lawyer, Greg King, said he had been in written communication with his client from his Cambodian cell. He said Cleghorn was buoyed by the development.

"We're counting on this to reinforce the factual basis of Graham's case and we hope to see a lot more uncovered," Mr King said.

So Vat, the chief prosecutor for the northern Cambodian provincial court of Siem Reap, said the three women had lodged the complaint against staff of the Siem Reap branch of the CWCC on September 18 and were demanding US$1500 (NZ$2300) in compensation.

The former Wellingtonian is serving 20 years in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison after being convicted in 2004 of raping five girls he employed as servants. The charges were brought against him by the CWCC.

In February, New Zealand Government officials expressed grave concerns to Cambodian officials over legal processes surrounding Cleghorn's case, after an appeal was conducted and dismissed without his knowledge.

In June, Cleghorn's appeal was adjourned at the request of his new lawyer, Ock Ry, so he could prepare properly for the case.

The previous lawyer's withdrawal from the appeal was a combination of stress from losing other sex-related court cases and ill health, Mr King said at the time.

Yesterday, he said that New Zealand-educated Mr Ry was acting for the three mothers and Cleghorn's appeal process would resume after that case. The mothers claim the three girls, then aged between nine and 15, were kidnapped and held in substandard conditions for two weeks in October 2003 and made to say they had been sexually abused by Cleghorn.

It is alleged the girls were denied showers and toilet rights and confined to locked, mosquito-infested quarters under guard. When they managed to escape, they were recaptured and returned forcibly to the locked room by CWCC staff.

The complaint further alleges that, when the mothers traced the girls, they were freed only on condition the mothers agreed not to press charges.

CWCC director Oung Chanthol was unavailable for comment.