Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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February 27 2006

Jailed NZer abandoned by Govt - daughter

The daughter of a New Zealand man who has been jailed for 20 years for sex offences in Cambodia says she feels the New Zealand Government has abandoned her father.

Former aid worker Graham Cleghorn, 55, was jailed in February 2004 and is being held in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison.

He is serving 20 years for the rape of five teenage girls – a conviction he has said he is innocent of.

Earlier National Radio reported that last month an appeal had been heard in Cambodia on behalf of Cleghorn, yet neither he, his lawyer nor the New Zealand Ambassador to Thailand were notified.

The unsuccessful appeal did not allow Cleghorn to present written statements from all five women he was convicted of raping which stated the crimes didn't take place.

Cleghorn's daughter, Heidi Madeley, said her father had been in prison for two and a half years and she felt the Government had abandoned his case.

Ms Madeley said she had not received any reports on the way the appeals had been handled.

"The only thing I have received is a letter from the New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok to say that the ambassador will be going to Cambodia if they haven't heard back from the Cambodian government within a week," Ms Madeley told National Radio today.

Ms Madeley said the Government had not been "forthcoming" in giving her father any assistance since his arrest.

"It's like it's somebody else's problem."

Ms Madeley said she visited Cleghorn in August, and realised he was not well.

"He just wasn't really strong enough to have long chats. He's lost most of his teeth and his heath is deteriorating rapidly."

Ms Madeley said her father had pains in his chest and legs.

"The conditions are not good for a man in his late 50s."

Cleghorn was being kept in a cell with 40 other men where there was only one sleeping mat for every five men. There was no running water, fans or air conditioning, Ms Madeley said.

"If somebody doesn't bring you food – unless you want to eat rice everyday, low quality rice – you don't get fed."

She said medical care had to be organised from the outside, and the family has had to pay for doctors to visit him.

"But there's nothing really they can do because he has got to get out of these conditions for his health to improve long-term."

Ms Madeley said she assumed the Cambodian government would be looking at her father's case and would be ordering a retrial.

The New Zealand Government had already raised concerns at the way Cleghorn's original trial was handled.

It took only nine hours, he was refused a translator, and denied the right to call his own witnesses and cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

Ms Madeley said that because the original trial and appeal were conducted without any real justice, a retrial should be ordered.

"I can't even bear the thought that there wouldn't be a retrial."

If Cleghorn does not get a retrial, "he will die".

Prime Minister Helen Clark needed to speak out in favour of Cleghorn, Ms Madeley said.

"We need all the help we can get and dad is still a New Zealand citizen, even though he lives abroad. Isn't that what our governments are supposed to do?"

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) consular division director Carolyn Forsyth said the New Zealand ambassador to Thailand had been following Cleghorn's case closely.

The ambassador, Peter Rider, would be going to Phnom Penh to meet with the President of the Appeals Court within the next few weeks.

"Sending an ambassador over is a very senior and formal step and that reflects the seriousness with which we take the situation."

Ms Forsyth said the embassy staff who attended Cleghorn's first trial raised concerns about the proceedings with Cambodian officials.

She said MFAT had to wait until the outcome of the appeal before doing anything further about their concerns.