Lauwaert dies in Cambodia; Fears for Cleghorn
May 5 2008
Australian Bart Lauwaert 41, dies in Cambodian hellhole; Fears for New Zealander Graham Cleghorn
Cambodia is desperately poor. A few short years ago, there was no justice, and millions were killed. Today there is a fledgling justice system, but corruption is rife.
South East Asian countries have also been havens for paedophiles. It was a reputation that Cambodians, understandably, did not want. In 2003 Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia campaign was launched in a bid to shake off its unsavoury reputation
In this context, foreign men accused of sexual offences are easy targets of bribery and corruption.
In 2002-3 Australians Bart Lauwaert and Clint Betteridge, and New Zealander Graham Cleghorn, were convicted of sexual offences in Cambodia, and sentenced to 20 years jail. Betteridge managed to return to Australia where he was held in custody awaiting the Cambodian Appeal Courts process.
All three men claim that they were victims of a scam operated by the Cambodian Womens Crisis Centre, and that they did not receive fair trials.
Following the failure of Graham Cleghorn's last appeal, New Zealand lawyer Greg King said: "I have to say that we are all totally devastated at the outcome of the appeal and still firmly believe that Graham has not had a fair and proper hearing in to his case."
Cleghorn was tried and convicted with no cross examination of complainants. Defence witnesses were disallowed. He had no translator to assist him at appeal. A second appeal was held in secret and Cleghorn was not even advised. In another final appeal that lasted three hours, defence witnesses were again not called. These witnesses included girls that Cleghorn was supposedly guilty of abusing, who were prepared to testify the abuse did not happen.
The appeal of the Australians was equally unfair. Despite all the complainants retracting their allegations, the Cambodian Appeals Court upheld the convictions. At that point the Australian Government refused to deport Clint Betteridge to Cambodia to serve his sentence. Instead on the same day it released him in Australia as a free man. Today, Clint is alive and Bart is dead.
There is an urgent need to return Graham Cleghorn home to New Zealand. A Cambodian jail is a life-threatening experience. It has proved to be fatal for a 41 year old Australian. Graham is aged over 60. His health has deteriorated significantly since he was first arrested in October 2003.