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Cambodian Court Postpones Trial of Australian Who Flew Drone at Rally

FILE - Australia filmmaker James Ricketson, center, ) speaks to the media at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Jan. 17, 2018.

A Cambodian court has delayed by one month the trial of an Australian filmmaker who was arrested one year ago for flying a drone at a campaign rally.

The delay was granted Friday at the request of 69-year-old James Ricketson, who said that his legal team had not been provided access to his case file or "one iota" of evidence against him.

"It is my legal right in accordance with Cambodian law to be provided with evidence of my guilt so I can form a defense. In one year, I have not been provided with any evidence at all," he told the court.

Ricketson was taken into custody in June 2017 after flying the drone at an opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party protest. The party was dissolved late last year for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government ahead of a national election in July 2018.

FILE - Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, who is accused of espionage, appears at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Jan. 17, 2018.
FILE - Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, who is accused of espionage, appears at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Jan. 17, 2018.

Ricketson was charged under an espionage provision of the Cambodian Criminal Code — Article 446 — which forbids collecting information that could jeopardize the national defense. He faces a 10-year prison sentence if convicted.

Prosecutor Sieng Sok confirmed this was the article under which Ricketson would be tried, but offered no further detail as to the specific allegations facing the Australian.

Ricketson told the court that since his arrest, he had only been presented with an 11-page document matching the original police report and 25 innocuous email messages seized from his computer, compiled by investigating judge Pich Vichearthor.

Asked if he could provide details of the charge against Ricketson, the judge declined to comment Friday, directing a reporter to court spokesman Ly Sophana, who also declined to comment.

Pich Vichearthor's investigation into Ricketson wrapped up late last month, but the filmmaker also told the court that he neither received a summons nor a copy of any indictment before the trial.

Representatives of the Australian embassy observed the proceedings but declined to comment.

Presiding judge Seng Leang acknowledged Ricketson's legal right to see the case file and said a new trial date would be set in less than a month.

Until he was moved to an infirmary late last month, Ricketson had been sharing a cell with more than 120 other inmates. His family said his health had been deteriorating sharply.