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Estimates: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee: Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 23 Mar 2018

Thursday, 1 March 2018

James Ricketson

Senator RHIANNON: Picking up on some of those issues, I was distracted when you spoke about the letter in a response to Senator Hinch. The information that I received, and you have just touched on this about the legal team, was that the letter contained the line:

We have no intention of interfering in James Ricketson's case. This is for him and his legal team.

Was that the wording in the letter?

Mr Todd : I would have to check that. I don't have a copy of the letter with me. We do make it clear that, due to our privacy obligations and the very longstanding convention of not releasing government-to-government correspondence, we are really not able to provide further details of the particular correspondence.

Senator RHIANNON: With regard to legal matters, I do understand when you are talking about legal framework in other countries. But when it is deeply unfair, how do you handle that? You are saying that a country has its own legal framework but in this case Mr Ricketson has been charged over a drone and it could carry a very heavy prison sentence. Do you take it up if it could result of an Australian citizen being jailed for a period of time that is out of balance?

Mr Todd : We make it clear to all Australian travellers before they leave Australia that when they visit another country they will be bound by the laws and the legal processes in those countries. We all know that not every country has the same legal system or judicial system or law enforcement system that we have in Australia. Under existing Cambodian law, it is possible for provisional detention for periods of six months to be extended under law three times, a total of 18 months. On 8 December, 2017, the Supreme Court extended his provisional detention for a second period of six months, until 3 June this year. And on 30 January 2018, the Supreme Court denied his application for bail. So he has been going through a judicial process in a foreign country with the support of his various legal teams that he has appointed.

Senator RHIANNON: In the case of the Australian journalist Peter Greste, detained in Egypt, I understand that the Australian government intervened at the highest levels with the Egyptian government. In that case, did the government make it clear that that Mr Greste's detention was a matter for him and his legal team?

Mr Todd : The cases of Mr Greste and Mr Ricketson are not the same. The times in which the Australian government intervened in the Greste case were after he had been convicted and found guilty of a particular charge and had been incarcerated on that charge. Mr Ricketson is currently under investigation by an investigating magistrate, has not yet been charged with an offence and has not yet been sentenced or dismissed under that offence. There are also other differences in terms of the offences that they were charged with, the nature of judicial systems. We took up high-level representations in Mr Greste's case after he had been found guilty of an offence and incarcerated for that offence.

Senator RHIANNON: When the leader of Cambodia is here, Mr Hun Sen, will the case of Mr Ricketson be taken up with the Cambodian leader?

Mr Todd : I'm not aware of what the Prime Minister may raise in his discussions. The Prime Minister is well briefed on this case and it would be for the Prime Minister to decide whether it is appropriate to raise it with Mr Hun Sen.

Senator RHIANNON: You said that Mr Ricketson has had a 'good number' of visits from consular staff.

Mr Todd : That is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: What does a 'good number' mean?

Mr Todd : It means 15.

Senator RHIANNON: In what period of time?

Mr Todd : Since he was incarcerated on 3 June 2017.

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