Graham Cleghorn.victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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The Dominion Post
December 18 2006

Cleghorn plea over rights violations
by Martin Kay

Graham Cleghorn, the Kiwi jailed in Cambodia on sex charges he says were fabricated, claims he has suffered sleep deprivation while fellow inmates are flogged and chained in pitch-black punishment rooms.

The former Wellington man is pleading with the New Zealand Government for former governor-general Dame Silva Cartwright - who is in Cambodia investigating alleged Khmer Rouge war crimes - to visit him in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar jail, which he says breaches international human rights laws.

Cleghorn's Wellington lawyer, Greg King, says he has referred the claims to Prime Minister Helen Clark and asked her to intervene.

In a letter to Mr King, Cleghorn says more than 1200 inmates have had their bare backs whipped with canes last month after the jail's new director, Mong Kim Heng, ordered that everyone with a tattoo be flogged. Other prisoners were chained in leg shackles in darkened "punishment rooms".

Cleghorn, who is serving a 20-year sentence, said though he had tattoos, foreigners were not beaten or shackled.

They were instead subjected to sleep deprivation.

"From November 3 to 19 he kept the lights off from 6pm to 10pm ... then all lights came on at midnight so we couldn't sleep," Cleghorn's letter says.

Things returned to normal after he complained to the Red Cross, but attempts to have the group investigate the punishment rooms were thwarted after prison guards emptied them and removed the shackles before Red Cross representatives arrived. "Let's just hope we can get a human rights investigation ... We foreigners are so far exempted but he will get around to us sooner or later," Cleghorn writes.

He notes that Dame Silvia is in Cambodia to sit on an international tribunal hearing alleged Khmer Rouge war crimes. He wants the former judge to be contacted so she can investigate the prison claims. His letter was written shortly before he was back in court on December 8 to appeal his conviction for raping five girls who worked at his home in Siam Reap. The appeal - postponed till next month after the women's group he claims framed him failed to appear - follows New Zealand pressure after a previous appeal was heard without him being notified.

The letter was sent to Mr King by Bangkok-based consul Lyndal Walker, who visited Cleghorn on December 7.

Mr King said New Zealand and other aid donors to Cambodia should insist on an investigation.

"It's only a matter of time before Graham himself is subjected to that type of harassment. When you've got people being flogged and held in shackles, it's pretty draconian stuff."