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Australian Man Jailed for Filming Cambodian Opposition Rally Denied Bail

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

An Australian filmmaker arrested last year in Cambodia on charges of endangering national security remains behind bars after that country's high court rejected his application for bail.

James Ricketson was arrested in Phnom Penh last June for mounting a camera on a drone to film a campaign rally by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. The 68-year-old Ricketson faces 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

The Supreme Court issued a statement Tuesday saying it rejected Ricketson's application because his case is still under investigation.

Alexandra Kennet, a lawyer for Ricketson's family, told reporters the family is "very, very disappointed" by the Supreme Court's decision, which was handed down in Ricketson's absence; a court clerk said the van taking him to court for the hearing was late in arriving. Kennet said Ricketson's family is also worried about his health, as he is detained in a cramped cell with 140 other prisoners.

Ricketson's arrest coincides with an apparent crackdown on dissent by autocratic Prime Minister Hun Sen to retain his 32-year grip on power, including the Supreme Court's decision to dissolve the CNRP back in December. The court sided with a lawsuit filed by Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), accusing the CNRP of being involved in a plot to topple the government.

The accusations led to the arrest of party leader Kem Sokha on charges of treason. The CNRP represented the biggest threat to Hun Sen's long rule after making unexpectedly strong gains in the 2013 general elections. Support is growing for the opposition, especially among younger Cambodians eager for change.

Hun Sen's government has also shut down a number of independent newspapers and English-language radio stations, including those broadcasting the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.