Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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January 4 2007

Cambodian Court Adjourns New Zealander's Rape Appeal For Sixth Time

A Cambodian court adjourned a New Zealand national's appeal against a 20-year sentence for rape for the sixth time Thursday after prison authorities failed to deliver him to the court in time for his hearing.

Graham Robert Cleghorn, 59, was convicted of raping five of his maids in the northern provincial court of Siem Reap in 2004 in a case spearheaded by the local non-government organization, the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC).

His appeal in Phnom Penh's Appeal Court has repeatedly been adjourned over the course of more than a year due to a range of problems including authorities failing to inform one side or the other that it was on, failure by the court to provide a translator, and now a failure by the prison system to provide the prisoner.

Both the CWCC and Cleghorn's lawyers expressed frustration Thursday after Judge Saly Theara adjourned the hearing until January 31 citing lack of a defendant.

Legal representative for Cleghorn, Nou Tepirith, said the prison had been informed of the appeal date in adequate time and he did not understand why the prisoner was not present.

Cleghorn, who remains in the capital's Prey Sar prison, has claimed he was framed by powerful interests who want his valuable land at the edge of the Angkor Wat temple complex and has further claimed he is being denied his day in court to prevent him from presenting evidence supporting those claims.

The CWCC has consistently denied Cleghorn's allegations and Thursday CWCC director Oung Chanthol also called for the court to proceed with the hearing with due haste for the sake of the victims and their families.

A representative of the New Zealand embassy in Bangkok present for the hearing did not comment.

The New Zealand embassy previously directly requested the Cambodian government ensure Cleghorn received a fair appeal hearing after his appeal was initially turned down without Cleghorn, the embassy or his lawyer being informed it had been held.