Noun Chea Remains in Pre-Trial Detention
The International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: March 20, 2008
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's genocide tribunal rejected an appeal Thursday by a former Khmer Rouge leader against his pre-trial detention on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
A five judge panel at the tribunal ruled that Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's former ideologist, must remain in custody ahead of trials scheduled to begin later this year.
Nuon Chea, who has been detained since Sept. 19 by Cambodia's U.N.-backed court, is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders in custody for their alleged involvement in the group's brutal 1975-79 rule.
The Khmer Rouge's radical policies caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, diseases, overwork and execution.
The tribunal's investigating judges charged Nuon Chea last year with involvement in crimes including "murder, torture, imprisonment, persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer, enslavement and other inhumane acts."
They said Nuon Chea faces life imprisonment if convicted and that the detention was necessary to prevent him from pressuring witnesses, destroying evidence and escaping.
Nuon Chea's own safety could also be at risk, if he were released, they said.
On Thursday, Judge Prak Kimsan upheld the detention order, saying, "The grounds for (Nuon Chea's) provisional detention still remain sufficient."
Nuon Chea, 81, did not show any reaction to the ruling. He yawned as the judges read out the facts and deliberations of the appeal.
After the ruling, two security guards helped Nuon Chea up from his seat. Walking with a cane, he was led back to his cell.
Nuon Chea's Cambodian lawyer, Son Arun, called the ruling "quite regretful" and expressed concern about his client's health.
He said he asked the court to provide counseling to check on Nuon Chea's state of mind "because he appears to have experienced some memory loses."
Nuon Chea has a history of heart trouble and "has only one kidney," his lawyer said.
Nuon Chea has denied any guilt. He has argued that the judges did not have sufficient grounds to detain him and called himself "a patriot and not a coward" trying to run away.
In December, the judges ruled against a similar appeal by Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who headed the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison and torture center.
The other three defendants are Ieng Sary, the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, his wife Ieng Thirith, who was the minister for social affairs, and Khieu Samphan, the former Khmer Rouge head of state.