Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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M&C News
Asia Pacific News
July 10; 04:43 GMT

Cambodian appeal court upholds rape verdict against New Zealander

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian Appeal Court on Tuesday upheld a 20-year jail term awarded to a New Zealand national in 2004 for the rape of five of his former employees.

Judge Thou Mony had reserved judgment after a mostly closed hearing last week during which three of the five victims appeared and were cross examined by New Zealand national Graham Robert Cleghorn's defence. No witnesses for Cleghorn were called.

In handing down his judgment Tuesday, Judge Mony said he found no conflict in the statements given by the women, who have stated that Cleghorn, 60, raped them while they were employed at his home as live-in workers.

Judge Mony further said he found no grounds to reopen the investigation, as previously requested by Cleghorn's legal defence, Bou Nou Ouk and Partners. Law firm head, Ouk Ry, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Cleghorn was arrested in 2003 and sentenced in Siem Reap provincial court in 2004 in a case spearheaded by prominent local women's group, the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC). Last week's appeal was his ninth attempt to have his case reheard.

A CWCC representative said before the verdict that the group would see Cleghorn's release as an injustice, but made no comment after the sentence was upheld.

Cleghorn, a former tour guide, has maintained his innocence, claiming powerful interests had engineered his arrest in order to obtain his valuable land located on the edge of the Angkor Wat temple complex and that he was framed by the CWCC.

Cleghorn's family said Tuesday they were devastated, and despite expecting to lodge a case with the Supreme Court - Cleghorn's last legal avenue - feared he may now be a suicide risk.

'The family is in shock and we are completely dismayed that Dad's witnesses were again not allowed to speak,' one of Cleghorn's five daughters, Heidi Madeley, said by email. 'We continue to believe these witnesses hold the key to proving that dubious methods were used to extract testimonies from the other women.

'It has to be asked - who stands to gain by keeping those witnesses quiet? Australia has already released one man accused by the CWCC. The CWCC has a less than perfect track record and we are very afraid that our father will die in a Cambodian jail without ever receiving a fair trial based on a case brought by a tainted organization,' she added.

The CWCC has been at the center of controversy over allegations about its methods but has strenuously and consistently denied any wrongdoing and has called Cleghorn's claims 'ridiculous.'

CWCC's founder and former director Oung Chanthol has been awarded honours for her women's rights work both before and after the allegations. She resigned from her position earlier this year.