Prosecutor Argues Duch Might Flee If Released
By Suy Se AFP - Wednesday, November 21 10:33 amPHNOM PENH (AFP) - Prosecutors Wednesday demanded that Khmer Rouge prison chief and top interrogator Duch remain behind bars as Cambodia's genocide tribunal ended two days of appeals against his pre-trial detention.
A ruling on his release will be issued at a later date, judges said.
Arguing that Duch could flee if freed, co-prosecutor Robert Petit said that the UN-backed court had a duty to the regime's victims to keep him detained.
"There is sufficient evidence to support his responsibility for the crimes he's being charged with," Petit said.
"We believe that Duch's detention is necessary to ensure his presence in the court," he told AFP following the court's first public hearing, seen by many as a landmark moment for a country trying to come to terms with its brutal past.
Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, allegedly oversaw the torture and extermination of an estimated 16,000 men, women and children at the Khmer Rouge's Tuol Sleng prison during the regime's 1975-1979 rule.
He was arrested by the tribunal in July, becoming the first top Khmer Rouge cadre to be detained and charged with crimes against humanity ahead of a trial expected to take place next year.
Sitting grim-faced before the panel of five judges who will rule on his release, Duch, a 65-year-old former maths teacher, appeared to be closely following the proceedings.
As judges ended the hearing, he rose clasping his hands in front of him and said: "I ask the pre-trial chamber to release me on bail."
Duch's bail hearing followed the arrest Monday of another regime figure, head of state Khieu Samphan, who was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The arrest brought to five the number of former top cadres facing justice for one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.
Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation and overwork as the communist regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during its rule.
The Khmer Rouge also abolished money, religion and schools.
Duch's lawyers argued that years spent imprisoned without trial by another court -- he was first arrested by the government in 1999 -- violated the law and was grounds for his release.
"Duch has been detained for eight years without trial. This contradicts Cambodian law and international standards for civil and political rights," said Duch's co-counsel Francois Roux after the hearing.
The long-stalled genocide tribunal was established in July 2006 after nearly a decade of negotiations between Cambodia and the UN.
With trials not expected until the last half of 2008, Duch's hearing has been widely anticipated as a key test of the court's credibility.
"The climate is good, there is no interference or intimidation," said Kek Galabru, director of the Cambodian rights group Licadho.
"The court is moving forward," she added.
The hearing also gave hundreds of attending Cambodians their first glimpse of the man who brought them so much misery three decades ago.
Duch, thought dead following the 1979 fall of the Khmer Rouge, was re-discovered 20 years later working for a relief organisation after converting to Christianity.
"I want all of the people who were involved in the Khmer Rouge regime to be in jail," said villager Sao Sihun, who lost 20 members of her family under the regime.
As momentum towards the trials builds, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, the regime's social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, were arrested last week, while Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea was detained in September.
The regime's top leader Pol Pot died in 1998.