Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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TVNZ Closeup
March 8 2006

Transcript; Graham Cleghorn

Mark Sainsbury, (Host of Close Up):
For two years now, New Zealander Graham Cleghorn has been locked up in a Cambodian jail for the rape of five teenage girls, part of a 20 year sentence. But he says he’s innocent. He claims to be the victim of a set-up by a women’s crisis organisation. Now there have been questions from day one about how this case has been handled in Cambodia. Mysteriously, Cleghorn’s appeal was heard several weeks ago, yet, he was never told it was even on. Today, New Zealand’s Ambassador in Thailand, Peter Rider, is travelling to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh demanding answers and a fair hearing. So what is going on? Asia correspondent Charlotte Glennie has been to Phnom Penh jail to see Cleghorn.

Charlotte Glennie:
Prey Sar Prison, Phnom Penh. Inside are some of Cambodia’s worst criminals and a handful of Westerners, all convicted of sex crimes. Among them is New Zealander, Graham Cleghorn. Cleghorn is now represented by Dy Borima, one of Cambodia’s top criminal lawyers.

Dy Borima:
[translator’s voice-over]: Graham insists - he needs to have the freedom, and justice. He’s an old man. He especially needs to go to the hospital. He needs to walk outside in the fresh air. He needs enough food to live. What all men in the world need, Graham also need.

Charlotte Glennie: Former Wellingtonian Graham Cleghorn is 58 years old. Two years ago he was convicted of raping five teenage girls. He’s adamant he’s innocent.

I’m just outside the prison now, and unfortunately we had difficulty in getting our camera in there. However I did get the chance to meet Graham Cleghorn, and surprisingly there was another New Zealander also in jail here, a man in his late fifties, who also claims he’s innocent of the sex crimes that he’s been convicted of. Aucklander Malcolm Hatfield was convicted two years ago of sex crimes against teenage boys. Both Hatfield and Cleghorn say they were set up by non-profit organisations. Cleghorn’s sights are set on the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre. Known as the CWCC, it’s the Cambodian equivalent of Women’s Refuge.

“CWCC turned up at my village and offered people $10000 US each to say I’d interfered with their children,” Cleghorn told me. “No one would do it. But CWCC went to other villages to find girls who’d testify against me. They made them have virginity tests. All I want is the CWCC investigated,” he said. He claimed they’re running a scam.

Cambodia’s seen as a haven for foreigners looking for sex, and the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre is one of the most active organisations fighting the problem. But sex offenders accuse the organisation of offering bribes to alleged victims in return for them to testify in court.

Dy Borima:
All the girls were promised by CWCC $US10,000 each if they filed a complaint against foreigners. 

Charlotte Glennie:
Cleghorn says this scam goes like this: the more people arrested as sex offenders, the more overseas funding the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre can get. The Centre’s director says the claims are absurd. She also says she’s harassed by so many pedophiles that she’s afraid to show her face.

Ms Chanthol, CWCC:
 We never pay for anyone - apart we pay for accommodation for victims if necessary [inaudible] poor [inaudible] when they come to Phnom Pehn to join the trial, of course we pay for their transportation. We pay for their food. But we never ever pay for any money. In one year, you know, we were around 263 cases, last year. How could we pay those 263 cases $US10,000 [inaudible] How much would they get [inaudible].

Charlotte Glennie:
Cleghorn was living here, on the outskirts of Siam Reap, a town famed for its breath taking temples, like Angkor Wat.

Graham Cleghorn moved to Cambodia around 1990. Since then, he told me, he’d had dozens of young women, teenagers, living at his house at different times. He says he used to pay them to do domestic chores. Some of them, he says, he put through school. The only one he says he had sex with is the woman he refers to as his wife. Whether they were actually married or not is questionable, but Buot Touer moved in with Cleghorn when she was 13 or 14. Around four years later, he says, they began a relationship.

Ms Chanthol: Actually [inaudible] live with many children. The girlfriend went to rural areas, sometime alone, sometime with him, and induce the other old women in the village to convince the poor family to allow their children to live with them [inaudible] helper [inaudible] can imagine [inaudible] hire around ten children [inaudible] at least the money… those girls, when the police raided, why girls say they were raped by Mr Cleghorn?

Charlotte Glennie:
Cleghorn was originally convicted in a trial which lasted nine hours, and his lawyer didn’t speak. Earlier this year Cleghorn’s appeal was heard in Phnom Penh.

Dy Borima:
 Graham was not in the courtroom. Nor was he in the vicinity of the courtroom. None of his witnesses or his lawyer was there in the courtroom. Only the prosecutor’s representative was there, and three girls.

Peter Rider:
Despite our asking to be kept informed, how was it that he, and the embassy, were unaware of the appeal taking place? But I think more importantly we’re wanting to look to the future. How do we now progress the situation? How do work the system so that Graham gets a chance for a fair hearing - a chance to put his case, his side of events - to the appeal judge.

Charlotte Glennie: [inaudible] after the Kymer Rouge, the Cambodians are still rebuilding, fighting those who exploit the vulnerable and trying to ensure that this is a place where justice prevails.

Mark Sainsbury
And of course Ambassador Peter Rider, who we just saw there is Charlotte’s track will meet with Cambodian officials tomorrow, and he’ll also be meeting with Graham Cleghorn, and his lawyer.