James Ricketson
FILE PHOTO: Australian filmmaker James Ricketson speaks to journalists as he arrives at the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh, Cambodia August 20, 2018. Reuters/Samrang Pring/File Photo

James Ricketson was given a royal pardon on Friday after being convicted of spying in Cambodia. The filmmaker has also been ordered to be deported to Australia.

The pardon came from King Norodom Sihamoni but signed by Senate president Say Chhum as the ruler was reportedly out of the country. The pardon has allowed Ricketson to leave jail on Friday evening and be transferred to the immigration detention next to the Phnom Penh International Airport.

“We are just waiting for the Australian embassy officials to arrive and complete the process, then he will be deported,” Lieutenant General Uk Heisela was quoted by the ABC as saying. Ricketson is expected to depart Cambodia on Sunday.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would continue to provide Ricketson with consular assistance.

“I welcome the news that James Ricketson’s petition for pardon has been approved by the Cambodian Government. This ends a distressing time for Mr Ricketson and his family. I thank my counterpart, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, for his Government’s positive consideration of Mr Ricketson’s petition,” Payne said in a statement.

Ricketson, who had been making documentaries in the country for decades, had been arrested in June last year for flying a drone over a Cambodia National Rescue Party rally in Phnom Penh without permission. He was charged with espionage, with authorities claiming he was collecting information that would endanger the national security. He had denied the charges.

Last month, he had been found guilty of the charge, receiving a sentence of six years in prison. The prosecutors said his aim was to incite hatred and overthrow Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and that his filmmaking was just a cover for his spying activities.

“We are just so relieved and excited about this news,” his son Jesse told AAP. “It still hasn’t really sunk in. It has been a really tough 16months, and I’m just kind of in shock right now.

“We would like to offer our hugest gratitude to King Norodom Sihamoni for showing us compassion and bringing this nightmare to and end. We are eternally grateful.”