Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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NZ Herald
December 8 2006; 8:55

Cleghorn rape conviction appeal adjourned

PHNOM PENH - The Cambodian women's group at the centre of an appeal by a New Zealander, jailed for 20 years for raping five Cambodian girls, says it didn't turn up to court yesterday because it hadn't been given the required two weeks notice.

Cambodia's court of appeal yesterday adjourned a hearing filed by a Graham Cleghorn, 60, convicted in February 2004 of raping the women, all of whom had worked at his home in the tourist town of Siem Reap, 314km northwest of Phnom Penh.

Judge Saly Theary, one of three judges hearing the case, said the hearing was postponed because the victims' mothers - who filed the initial charges - and their lawyers were not at the court.

"I want the plaintiffs' lawyers and the defendant's lawyer to confront each other," said the judge, adding that another hearing would take place early next month.

Executive Director of Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre (CWCC) Oung Chanthol said they didn't go because "because the court did not send a notice to us, our lawyers, the police, or the victims."

She said the centre only heard about the case through the New Zealand media on November 30. Cambodian law requires two weeks' notice.

"We only ask that the law is followed. Rural people (like the victims) and the lawyers need time to prepare and also travel down here all this way."

Ms Chanthol said the judge had made the right decision to postpone the appeal. Both parties had the right to be heard.

Cleghorn's first appeal was thrown out in January in a hearing that neither he nor his lawyer attended. However, both appeared in court on Thursday morning, and Cleghorn agreed with the court's decision.

"I want to face my accusers and I want my accusers to be cross-examined," he told reporters.

"I have waited for three years to face these people to expose their lie," he added.

He said he did not commit the crime, saying the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, a non-governmental organisation, made the women testify against him.

Cleghorn, who had lived in Cambodia for 10 years and worked as a guide at the famed Angkor Wat temples, was arrested with his wife in late 2003 amid a government crackdown on sex crimes, particularly cases involving children.

His Cambodian wife, Bot Teur, who was found guilty of conspiracy because she had procured the young women for her husband, was sentenced to three years behind bars but allowed five years' probation instead.