Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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The Dominion Post
December 2 2006

'Great news' for jailed Kiwi's family
by Mathew Torbit and NZPA

A New Zealander serving 20 years in a maximum security prison in Cambodia after being convicted of raping five girls is buoyed by news he will finally have a chance to clear his name.

Graham Cleghorn's Australian-based daughter, Heidi Madeley, said her father's spirits had been lifted after he was told by his lawyer that an appeal had been scheduled for Thursday.

Cleghorn, 60, formerly of Wellington, was jailed in February 2004 after being found guilty of raping five girls at his Siem Reap home.

He maintains his innocence and claims he has been framed by corrupt officials who want his land on the edge of the Angkor Wat temple complex.

"It's great news, but I only hope the judges haven't already been bribed and the appeal is a foregone conclusion," Ms Madeley said.

The New Zealand Government raised concerns with Cambodian officials in February after an appeal was conducted - and rejected - without Cleghorn or his lawyers' knowledge.

Ms Madeley said she had been contacted by Bangkok-based New Zealand consul Lyndal Walker who would attend Cleghorn's appeal.

Cleghorn has accused a Cambodian women's group of using extortion to have foreigners jailed for allegedly sexually abusing young girls and claims he is innocent of the crimes.

Oung Chanthol, Cambodian Women Crisis Centre's director, dismissed Cleghorn's allegations, challenging him to show proof of her group's financial offers to the victims.

Cleghorn says he was framed by the non-profit group, which has provided shelters and legal counselling to the five girls he was convicted of raping. The girls used to work as maids at Cleghorn's house in Siem Reap province, where he had worked as a tourist guide.

He alleged that the crisis centre had offered to pay $US10,000 (NZ$14,630) to the girls to say that he had raped them.

Two months ago, three Cambodian mothers began legal proceedings against the crisis centre.

They claimed their children were kidnapped and falsely imprisoned in a bid to make them admit they had been sexually abused by Cleghorn.

The three girls and their mothers named in the new complaint refused to join the case against Cleghorn and are expected to serve as defence witnesses for him in the rescheduled appeal.