Delay sought for KRouge leader's first public court hearing
Saturday, February 2, 2008
PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Attorneys for Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea said Saturday that they want to delay his first public appearance before the genocide tribunal because of a dispute over a foreign lawyer on his team.
The conflict arose after Cambodia's Bar Association last week refused to admit a member of Nuon Chea's defense team, Dutch attorney Victor Koppe.
Nuon Chea, the 81 year-old former regime ideologue charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, had been expected to appeal his pre-trial detention on Monday.
But one of his lawyers, Cambodian Sun Arun, said he would seek a postponement Monday.
"I cannot do it alone and win," he told AFP. "It is not possible to proceed with the hearing without foreign lawyers."
Bar officials said Koppe signed had court documents before they swore him in, violating the rule that foreign lawyers wishing to represent tribunal defendants must be accepted by the Bar before conducting court business.
Koppe had petitioned for the removal of pre-trial chamber judge Ney Thol, whom he accused of being "neither independent nor impartial."
Ney Thol serves as president of Cambodia's military court and is a member of the ruling Cambodian People's Party central committee.
Tribunal officials said earlier that the Bar Association's decision would not affect the hearing.
But the threat of delay has renewed concerns over the sluggishness of the UN-backed court, which convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of often stalled talks between Cambodia and the world body.
The first arrests were made only last year.
All five of the former regime leaders currently in custody are elderly and ill, heightening fears that they could die before being tried for crimes committed during their 1975-79 communist regime.
Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed by the Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society in its bid to forge a radical agrarian utopia.
Cities were emptied and their populations exiled onto vast collective farms, while schools were closed, religion banned and the educated classes targeted for extermination.
Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved