James Ricketson's road to recovery will be tough: Peter Greste

Peter Greste has spoken to SBS News about what may lie ahead for James Ricketson after his royal pardon.

The process of readjusting to life back home for Australian filmmaker James Ricketson will not be easy, said supporter Peter Greste, who himself served 400 days in an Egyptian prison.

James Ricketson is set to leave Cambodia for Australia as early as Sunday after receiving a royal pardon.

He spent 14 months in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison after being sentenced to six years in jail for flying a drone over a political rally in the country.

Mr Ricketson's attorney Sam Onn Kong said the espionage charges against his client were never substantiated in court.

Peter Greste appears in an Egyptian court.
Source: AAP

'Public pressure really works'

Journalist Peter Greste was freed from an Egyptian prison in 2015, after being convicted of spreading false news and aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

He said there is a common thread to both his and James Ricketson's story.

"At times like this when governments all over the world are using national security legislation to clamp down on press freedom and freedom of speech, it is easy to get very depressed," he said.

Mr Greste credits the collective weight of public pressure for aiding in Mr Ricketson's release.

"But we also need to take heart from these moments when we can prove that public pressure really works. 

'Very disorientating'

Mr Greste said the psychological challenges will be the toughest part of the recovery process.

"You start preparing that the prison cell, those four walls, could be home for a very long time," he said of the seven year sentence he was handed by Egyptian authorities.

"And to actually all of sudden have that fall away is very disorientating.

"But I guess the difference is when your sentence is commuted or pardoned at reasonably short notice readjusting to life back at home is quite tough."

He said a big part of the recovery process involved understanding "that there was no such thing as normal".

"You're a different person when you come out, and you also come into a different environment, and you're in a very different relationship to the public.

"I think that is something that is much harder mentally to accept."

Family thanks supporters

James Ricketson's family has also thanked supporters for helping to apply public pressure for his release, including those who signed the online petition which garnered 107,688 signatures.

“The strain on our family and friends and supporters has been tremendous, but we thank everyone who has supported James and our family through this ordeal," a statement released by son Jess Ricketson and nephew Bim Ricketson said. 

Bim Ricketson, nephew of Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, speaks to the media in Sydney, Friday, August 31, 2018.
Source: AAP

“James is almost 70 and our family has been very concerned about his health - we're not sure how long he could have continued to endure the conditions of the notorious Prey Sar prison."

Jess Ricketson said his father's release will allow him to “return to his passions of filmmaking, journalism and helping those who need it most”.

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne thanked Cambodian officials for releasing James Ricketson, saying consular assistance is being provided.

"This ends a distressing time for Mr Ricketson and his family," she said.

"I thank my counterpart, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, for his government's positive consideration of Mr Ricketson's petition."

Published 22 September 2018 at 6:40pm, updated 22 September 2018 at 8:52pm
By Biwa Kwan