Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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November 30 2006

Kiwi rapist granted appeal in Cambodia

Convicted New Zealand rapist Graham Cleghorn has been granted an appeal in Cambodia next week.

According to an e-mail from the Bangkok-based New Zealand consul Lyndal Walker the appeal has been scheduled for December 7.

Although no members of the Cleghorn family could be contacted for comment, Cleghorn's Wellington lawyer, Greg King, said he was pleased that the appeal would take place.

He said he would not be going up to Cambodia for the appeal.

"I looked at it, but I'm actually committed in court right through and obviously I don't have any standing in a Cambodian court and it's conducted in a language I don't understand," Mr King said.

"It would only be for moral support that I would go. I had looked at it to see if it was feasible, but unfortunately it's not."

Cleghorn, 60, formerly of Wellington, has previously accused a Cambodian women's group of using extortion to have foreigners jailed for allegedly sexually abusing young girls.

He claimed he was innocent when he appeared at the Appeals Court in July to appeal his 20-year jail sentence handed down by a provincial court in 2004.

Oung Chanthol, Cambodian Women Crisis Centre's director, dismissed Cleghorn's allegations, challenging him to show proof of her group's financial offers to the victims.

Cleghorn contends he was framed by the non-profit group, which has provided shelters and legal counselling to the five girls he was convicted of raping.

The girls used to work as maids at Cleghorn's house in Siem Reap province, where he had worked as a tourist guide.

He alleged that the crisis centre had offered to pay $US10,000 ($NZ14,858) to the girls to say that he had raped them.

Two months ago it was reported three Cambodian mothers were claiming their children were kidnapped and falsely imprisoned in a bid to make them admit they had been sexually abused by an unnamed foreigner, believed to be Cleghorn.

The chief prosecutor for the northern provincial court of Siem Reap, So Vat, said the women had lodged the complaint against the staff of the Siem Reap branch of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre (CWCC) on September 18 and demanded $US1500 in compensation for the trauma caused by the alleged incident.

So Vat said he believed the foreigner was Cleghorn, who was later convicted of rape on the testimonies of five of his legal-age former maids and sentenced to 20 years in prison in a court case spearheaded by the CWCC.

"The court will investigate these claims (by the three mothers) because it is our job. However, this has been a very long road. They waited a long time to make these complaints. I wonder if outside forces are not encouraging them now," he said, but declined to elaborate.

The three girls and their mothers named in the new complaint refused to join the case against Cleghorn and are expected to serve as defence witnesses for him when his case is reheard.

Cleghorn has alleged he has been framed by powerful interests who want his valuable land, located on the edge of the Angkor Wat temple complex.

Earlier this year, the New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok stepped in to ensure he received a new and fair appeal hearing after his appeal against the sentence was turned down without Cleghorn, his lawyer or the embassy being informed it was being held.

Cleghorn remains in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison.