Australian Blogger Convicted of Defaming Anti-Pedophile NGO

An Australian blogger was found guilty of defaming an anti-pedophile group over accusations that it had manipulated witnesses, paid bribes to influence the courts and knowingly put innocent men behind bars, the organization said in a statement on Wednesday.

James Ricketson, 67, a documentary filmmaker and prolific blogger who has taken on a number of child protection groups for alleged corruption, said he was not aware of the case until he was emailed a statement about the verdict released by Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), the group that sued him.

In its statement, APLE said the Phnom Penh Municipal Court held a trial on December 5 and found Mr. Ricketson guilty of defamation 10 days later, fining him 5 million riel, or about $1,250, and ordering him to pay 10 million riel, or about $2,500, in compensation.

“In many of his blog posts between 2014 and 2015, Ricketson repeatedly wrote to accuse APLE Cambodia of putting innocent men behind bars in order to raise funds with the impressive arrest and conviction rate; buying judges to deliver the verdicts in any direction APLE wants; being a corrupt NGO with no respect for Cambodian law or for the legal and human rights of innocent men; and manipulating witnesses and the courts to secure the outcome APLE desires,” the statement says.

The group’s director, Samleang Seila, is quoted as saying that he is “delighted to have our names and reputation cleared by the justice decision,” adding that the allegations had been disruptive, demoralizing and damaging to donor relationships.

Court officials could not be reached to confirm the decision.

Upon receiving the statement, Mr. Ricketson responded with a series of emails and had a new post on his blog within four hours. He said that he was in Phnom Penh when the trial was held, but was intentionally and illegally kept in the dark about the case so he could not defend himself and present evidence supporting his allegations.

“APLE did not want me to be in court for the simple reason that Seila Samleang knew that I could prove this last statement (and many like it) to be false. The last thing APLE wanted was for evidence to be presented to the court that was at variance to the ‘fake facts’ it was presenting,” he wrote in his blog post.

“I will appeal the Phnom Penh Municipal Court decision if and when I am appraised of the evidence against me,” he said in an email, in order to show that the municipal court “is corrupt to the core and that verdicts such as this one can be acquired by anyone who can afford to pay the price.”

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