Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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December 7 2006

New Zealander's Cambodian appeal adjourned
dpa German Press Agency

Phnom Penh- The appeal of a New Zealand national sentenced to 20 years in a Cambodian prison for rape was adjourned Thursday after legal representation for the victims and the non-government organization which spearheaded the case failed to appear. Cambodian Appeals Court judge Saly Theara told the court that he did not feel able to hold the hearing for Graham Cleghorn, 59, without representatives from both sides present and adjourned the case until a date yet to be announced in January.

Cleghorn was convicted of raping five female former employees in a hearing in the northern provincial court of Siem Reap in 2004 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was subsequently transfered to Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison pending an appeal.

The appeal was rescheduled after pressure from the New Zealand embassy in Bangkok when it was discovered that the first appeal had been turned down without Cleghorn, his lawyer or the embassy being informed it was being held.

This time it was the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC) and associated non-government organization lawyers which are helping five former employees of Cleghorn bring the case who failed to appear.

A representative for the CWCC present in the court Friday referred questions as to why to CWCC director Oung Chanthol. Oung Chanthol did not answer phone calls Friday morning.

Cleghorn, whose lawyer Ouk Ry had brought a number of defence witnesses from Siem Reap to be present for the stalled hearing, told the court and reporters present that he was disappointed that his appeal hearing has been delayed again.

"I have been in jail three years waiting for today. I want to speak but they will not let me... I want my day in court. I want to put my case," Cleghorn said.

The former tour guide and hobby farmer has claimed he was framed by powerful interests who want his valuable land, located on the edge of the Angkor Wat temple complex. He further claims the women he was convicted of raping were offered money for their testimony.

The CWCC has strenuously denied the allegations, calling them ridiculous, and has challenged Cleghorn to produce any proof to back his charges.