Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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The Dominion Post
June 14 2006

Boost for jailed Kiwi
by Matthew Torbit

Supporters of a New Zealander jailed for 20 years in Cambodia have received a boost after Australian authorities said they would investigate the group that made child sex claims against him.

Australian teacher Clint Betterridge has been released from a Queensland jail after the Howard Government decided he could be tortured and denied natural justice if sent back to Cambodia.

The Australian Government cancelled the extradition of Mr Betterridge, who fled Cambodia in 2003 – days before he was convicted and sentenced in absentia to 10 years' jail for underage sex.

Former Wellington paramedic Graham Cleghorn, 59, is two years into a 20-year sentence in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison for raping five underage girls in his Siam Reap home.

Mr Cleghorn maintains he was framed by a non-government organisation, the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, that is seeking a share of millions of dollars in foreign funding that is being poured into Southeast Asia to stop child prostitution.

Justice Minister Chris Ellison told The Australian newspaper that Mr Betterridge was set free after Cambodian officials refused to grant a retrial following the recanting of his accuser's original testimony.

Mr Ellison has subsequently ordered an investigation into possible aid links between the Australian Government and the CWCC which has been accused of paying girls to make allegations of sexual abuse, which were later withdrawn. Another Australian, Bart Lauwaert, who was arrested at the same time as Mr Betterridge, is serving 20 years in a Cambodian jail for child rape. All 10 of his accusers have retracted their evidence, saying they were offered money to falsely testify.

Mr Cleghorn maintains his five accusers were offered up to US$10,000 by the CWCC to falsely testify he molested them, though the CWCC denies this.

In January, Mr Cleghorn had an appeal against his conviction heard in a Siam Reap court without being notified or present, sparking New Zealand diplomatic officials to step in and help secure another hearing.

Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry spokesman Brad Tattersfield said Cambodian authorities had given an assurance they would provide a month's notice of Mr Cleghorn's appeal date.