Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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M&C News
July 4 2007; 11:59 GMT

Cambodian court delays verdict in New Zealander's appeal

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian Appeal Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on an appeal by a New Zealand national convicted of rape in the man's ninth attempt to have the appeal heard.

Graham Robert Cleghorn, 59, was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison by Siem Reap Provincial Court in 2004 for the rape of five of his female staff.

Judge Thou Mony Wednesday conducted a closed hearing with Cleghorn and three of the five women who brought the original complaints in attendance, as well as representatives from the non-governmental organizations which supported them through the legal process, and New Zealand embassy officials who had flown in from Bangkok.

No witnesses for Cleghorn appeared. The court did not give a reason for that exclusion.

Judge Mony adjourned the hearing after about three hours of testimony and reserved his judgement until July 10.

Since his arrest, Cleghorn has maintained he has been framed by powerful interests who want his valuable land on the edge of the Angkor Wat temple complex in the northern tourist hub of Siem Reap.

Shortly before the court was closed to the public Wednesday, Cleghorn reiterated his allegations to the new appeal Judge Mony and claimed a local women's group, the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC), had incited local women to come forward and make claims against him with promises of financial gain.

The CWCC has consistently denied the charges, calling them ridiculous. CWCC founder Oung Chanthol was awarded an honour for her work by the US embassy in Phnom Penh before resigning earlier this year, citing fatigue.