Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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NZ Herald
June 21 2006;  12:35

Convicted rapist's lawyer to ask NZ government for cash

The Wellington lawyer for a New Zealander serving 20 years in a Cambodian prison for raping five young employees plans to ask the New Zealand Government for money to fund his appeal.

Graham Cleghorn, 58, was convicted of rape in 2004.

This year, he won the right to a second appeal after successfully arguing that the first appeal hearing was unfair as neither he nor his lawyers knew about it until it was over.

The new appeal date has been set for July 10.

However, the defence received another setback this week when Cleghorn's lawyer in Cambodia, Dy Borima, quit the case, citing "frustration" at the corrupt court system.

Speaking on National Radio today, Cleghorn's New Zealand lawyer, Greg King, said the family's legal fund of US$6500 ($10,650), held in trust in Cambodia, had been almost exhausted.

While the Legal Services Agency did not provide legal aid for New Zealanders facing criminal convictions overseas, he was exploring "other avenues".

One option was to approach the Prime Minister and Cabinet for an ex-gratia payment, such as those given as aid after a tsunami or earthquake, he said.

"The Government does have funds available to do that and it's a matter of petitioning them," he said.

Mr King denied that such a grant would set a precedent.

"I don't think this situation arises very often," he said. "I think New Zealand has an obligation under the Geneva Convention to ensure that our citizens are accorded due legal process wherever they are in the world, and whether that extends to providing funding in what is quite an exceptional case is open to debate."

A quote receive overnight from the new Cambodian lawyer, Otago University-trained Ock Ry, was about US$6500 in total -- including US$2000 expenses for getting witnesses to Phnom Penh.

Mr King said he was waiting for the final bill from the previous lawyer.

"We don't want to go to the Government unless we have to, or know what the shortfall is."

In an interview from Prey Sar prison outside Phnom Penh last week, Cleghorn said he had no hope of a fair trial and insisted he was the victim of a "sex sting".

He said the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre (CWCC) set him up to promote its "lucrative fund-raising" and enable corrupt officials to lay claim to his small property near Angkor Wat.

CWCC head Oung Chanthoul has strenuously and consistently denied she has any influence over the court.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's office said he was not sure whether Cabinet had ever provided funding for a New Zealander's legal defence in an overseas jurisdiction.

"However, we will look at his letter when we receive it," he said.