Khmer Rouge 'Brother No 2' in court
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 04, 2008
The most senior surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge leader has appeared for the first time before a United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia.
Monday's court appearance by Nuon Chea, the so-called "Brother Number Two" of the Khmer Rouge, was to have heard an appeal against his detention and request for bail.
But a dispute over the 81-year-old's legal team and the accreditation of two Dutch defence lawyers meant the tribunal adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.
The former deputy to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot - who died in 1998 – Nuon Chea was arrested last September and faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial, expected to start later this year.
Nuon Chea is the second Khmer Rouge senior official to appeal his detention, following a similar move by Kang Kek Iew, also known as Duch, who headed the group's notorious Tuol Sleng prison and interrogation centre.
Duch's appeal was rejected by the court, which said he could attempt to flee the country or interfere with witnesses if he was freed.
Speaking before Monday's court appearance, Son Arun, Nuon Chea's lawyer, said his client "feels an absence of freedom in his detention, where all he does is eat and sleep".
However, the panel of Cambodian and international investigating judges has said it sees Nuon Chea's continued detention as necessary to prevent him from pressuring witnesses or destroying evidence, as well as for his own safety.
The former Khmer Rouge second-in-command is accused of playing a key role in the deaths of some 1.7 million people during the group's 1975-79 rule.
During that period, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to rural areas in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia, outlawing schools, religion and currency.
The tribunal, convened in 2006, has charged Nuon Chea with "murder, torture, imprisonment, persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer, enslavement and other inhumane acts".
The tribunal is expected to hear documentary evidence that Nuon Chea personally ordered the murder of 14,000 people held at the Tuol Sleng prison, a former Phnom Penh high school.
Nuon Chea surrendered to the Cambodian government in 1998 after the final remnants of the Khmer Rouge collapsed in 1998 and he was given a formal pardon.
In an apology of sorts after the surrender he told reporters: "Naturally, we are sorry, not only for the lives of the people, but also for the animals. They all died because we wanted to win the war."
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