KRouge tribunal rejects delay to next hearing: official
Monday, January 28, 2008
PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal will hear an appeal against regime leader Nuon Chea's detention on February 4, officials said Monday, rejecting efforts to delay the court's second public hearing.
Legal maneouvering by Nuon Chea's defence lawyers had threatened to delay the proceedings, court officials said.
But the court said the hearing would take place as scheduled, rejecting requests by Nuon Chea's team to strike some of his testimony from the record.
Lawyers for the most senior surviving Khmer Rouge cadre had argued that tribunal judges should not have conducted their client's initial interviews in the absence of defence counsel following his arrest in September.
"Mr. Nuon's apparent waiver of his right to counsel was involuntary, uninformed, ambiguous and therefore ineffective," they said in their request to annul the written record of Nuon Chea's first three court appearances.
But judges, in an order issued Friday, said the 81-year-old had repeatedly denied that he needed a lawyer present for the interviews.
"It appears difficult to imagine a situation where the waiver could have been more clear and more deliberate than in this case," the judges wrote in their decision to reject the request.
Nuon Chea, who was Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's closest deputy, is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was the alleged architect of the communist regime's sweeping execution policies during its 1975-1979 rule.
Five top cadres have been arrested so far, with the first trials expected to begin in mid-2008.
Up to two million people died of starvation, disease and overwork, or were executed under the Khmer Rouge, which emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia.
Schools, religion and currency were outlawed and the educated classes targeted for extermination by the communists.
"Everything is clear now. The co-investigating judges wanted to show that they have done everything fairly for Nuon Chea," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath told AFP Monday, saying the hearing would be held.
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