Australian filmmaker's family 'overwhelmed' after Cambodia pardon

Sydney - The family of an Australian filmmaker who received a royal pardon from Cambodia said on Sunday they were "overwhelmed with happiness" ahead of his return to Sydney.

James Ricketson was sentenced to six years' jail last month after being convicted of espionage, and had been in detention since June last year after he flew a drone over an opposition rally.

He was issued a royal pardon on Friday after strongman premier Hun Sen requested it from the Cambodian king.

Local media reported that the 69-year-old was expected to arrive in Sydney late on Sunday after being deported from Cambodia on Saturday.

"The Ricketson family are overwhelmed with happiness to have James home safely in Australia," they said in a statement, commercial broadcaster Channel Nine reported.

"James still deeply loves Cambodia and its people and remains committed to helping however he can."

The family thanked supporters for campaigning for his release, as well as King Norodom Sihamoni for "bringing this nightmare to an end".

They added that the 16-month imprisonment took a huge physical and emotional toll on Ricketson's health.

Ricketson's pardon came a few days before Hun Sen - who has been in power for more than 33 years - was scheduled to travel to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

It also followed the freeing of activists and opposition lawmakers in the weeks after July's national election, which critics said was neither free nor fair.

Australian foreign Minister Marise Payne thanked her Cambodian counterpart Prak Sokhonn and said the pardon ended a "distressing time" for Ricketson and his family.