Lawyer slams detention of former Khmer Rouge leader
The China Post
By Suy Se, AFP
Thursday, April 24, 2008
PHNOM PENH -- Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan went before Cambodia's genocide tribunal for a pre-trial hearing Wednesday, where famed French lawyer Jacques Verges branded his detention "illegal."
The judges adjourned the hearing and warned Verges over his behaviour after he said he was unable to act for his client because court documents had not been translated.
The controversial Verges, who has defended some of the world's most infamous figures, told reporters he was "indignant" to discover 16,000 pages of court documents had not been translated into French, one of the court's three official languages, for Khieu Samphan's appeal against his detention without bail.
"His detention is illegal because it has been ordered from a file to which his lawyers did not have access," the lawyer, whose notorious clients have included Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan terrorist "Carlos the Jackal," said after Khieu Samphan made his first public appearance before the U.N.-backed tribunal.
The judges said Verges and his Cambodian co-lawyer had given no indication of any such difficulties since filing their appeal on December 21, 2007, adding that all the relevant documents had been translated.
"As a consequence of the behavior of the international co-lawyer advising with effectively no notice that he will not continue to act in this appeal within the circumstances mentioned above, a warning is given to him," they said in a statement on their decision to adjourn the proceedings to a date to be decided.
A fierce anti-colonialist, Verges, who was born in Thailand, reportedly befriended Khieu Samphan and other future Khmer Rouge leaders while at university in Paris in the 1950s.
Khieu Samphan, who was detained by the court in November on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, earlier listened stony-faced as head judge Prak Kimsan read out the background of the case against him.
He then told the court, which was set up to try former Khmer Rouge leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity during their brutal 1975-1979 rule, that he had lived in poverty for the past 10 years.
"I have had no job since leaving the jungle. (I have) only my wife, who struggles to feed me and my family," Khieu Samphan said in Khmer, referring to his 1998 defection from the then-dying Khmer Rouge guerrilla movement based in the remote northwest.
Khieu Samphan, who court documents say is 76, was dressed in a light-grey shirt and trousers and spoke in a quiet, hoarse voice as he addressed the three Cambodian and two foreign judges, an AFP reporter at the court said.
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