Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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NZ Herald
March 10 2006

Ambassador to push for paedophile appeal in Cambodia

Graham Cleghorn

New Zealand's ambassador in Bangkok is to meet Cambodia's Justice Minister later today to present grounds for a rehearing of an appeal against Graham Cleghorn's conviction and 20 year jail term for child rape.

Former aid worker, Cleghorn, 55, was jailed in February 2004 for the rape of five teenage girls of which he has protested his innocence.

He is being held in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison.

Cleghorn's appeal against the charges was thrown out by the Appeals Court in January, without him even knowing about the hearing.

The New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok made an official complaint to the Cambodian government.

Peter Rider, New Zealand's ambassador to Thailand and Cambodia, said today Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana had agreed to consider an application for a rehearing of the appeal.

The minister had earlier said that the appeal anomaly had arisen due to confusion in Cambodia's still developing judicial system and that on these grounds he was ready to accept a proposal by a lawyer for Cleghorn for a new hearing.

Mr Rider said he would "be making a few points" in his meeting with the minister concerning the need for Mr Cleghorn to have a chance for him and his witnesses to present their case.

"I'll also be stressing that we would hope to get the mandatory 15 days' notice for that hearing so that witnesses can be prepared and that we, at the embassy, can arrange to come across, and so that an interpreter can be organised well in advance.

"The final point that I'll be making is that this has dragged on for a long period of time now -- it's been over a year since the appeal process started -- and I'll be asking him if they give it some priority."

Cleghorn was convicted in February 2004 of raping five former female employees in the northern city of Siem Reap and sentenced to 20 years in jail and ordered to pay each woman US$2000 ($3125) compensation.

A former tour guide and the owner of prime land on the edge of the Angkor Wat temple complex, Cleghorn claims that his accusers were motivated by offers of compensation by the non-government organisation which supplied their legal representation, Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC).

CWCC director Chanthol Oung has denied Cleghorn's claims as "laughable" but said that whether or not the hearing was rescheduled and how it was held was a matter for the court.

Mr Rider made it clear to Cleghorn and his lawyer that the New Zealand government was interested only in ensuring he got a fair trial.

"The question of the veracity of witnesses, the points of law, will be argued by the lawyer in front of the judge.

"What we want to do is make sure Mr Cleghorn and his lawyer get their day in court -- that they get their witnesses for the first time to present their side of the case."

Mr Rider said he and a colleague took along fresh food items when they visited Cleghorn, to supplement his limited prison diet.

They also conducted a "regular" prison visit on Malcolm Hatfield, 58, a New Zealand teacher serving 10 years in Prey Sar for having sex with underage boys.

Mr Hatfield asked that the ambassador made no comment about his case.

Mr Rider said that both prisoners were in reasonable health.