New Zealand’s ambassador to Thailand has expressed concern to Cambodian authorities over an Appeals Court hearing for jailed New Zealand national Graham Cleghorn that was held without his presence last month, an embassy official said Monday.
Cleghorn was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Siem Reap Provincial Court in February 2004 after he was found guilty of raping five women he employed as maids. He was also found guilty of possessing weapons.
But his Appeals Court hearing in January, at which his conviction was upheld, “denied Mr Cleghorn the opportunity to present a case, which breached his right to a fair hearing,” embassy consul Lyndal Walker wrote in an e-mail received on Monday.
“The New Zealand Ambassador [Peter Rider]…expressed the Ministry’s grave concerns about Mr Cleghorn’s appeal being heard in absentia” during the meeting with a Cambodian Embassy official on Feb 8, Walker wrote.
“We asked what steps could be taken to rectify the situation,” Walker added.
“The Ambassador pointed out that neither Mr Cleghorn, his lawyer or New Zealand officials had been told the appeal was to be heard.”
Appeals Court Judge Saly Theara confirmed that he had upheld the verdict at the hearing but denied that the appeal had been held in secret.
He said a summons was issued for Cleghorn to attend, but the trial could not be delayed until he was able to attend because the witnesses were poor and had already spent too much money on transportation from the countryside.
“All the victims came, and the lawyer, Nach Try, said he stopped defending [Cleghorn],” Saly Theara said.
An unattributed report by Deutsche Presse-Agentur stated the five teenagers who alleged Cleghorn raped them have signed statements retracting their evidence.
Saly Theara declined to reveal whether the five females retracted their allegations during the hearing.
John Mitchell, deputy head of mission at the British Embassy, which represents New Zealand in Cambodia, said it is embassy policy not to comment on consular cases.