Fri Feb 20, 10:33 am ET
PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu
Samphan Friday lost an appeal at Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal to
have his case file translated into French for his famed attorney.
The genocidal regime's leader and his lawyers have argued that in the absence
of the translation of the documents into French -- one of the court's three
official languages -- Khieu Samphan would not have a fair trial.
Khieu Samphan, 77, is being defended by famed French lawyer Jacques Verges,
who has acted for some of the world's most infamous figures including Nazi war
criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan terrorist "Carlos the Jackal".
Judge Prak Kimsan, head of the tribunal's pre-trial chamber, said Friday that
the "appeal is inadmissible" because the court's rules do not provide for
appeals relating to translation issues.
The judge also said that the defence team already had legal assistants who
understand the languages used by the hybrid international-Cambodian court,
which was set up in 2006 after years of haggling with the United Nations.
Verges, who is representing Khieu Samphan along with Cambodian lawyer
Sa Sovan, said during an appeal hearing last December that only 2.5 percent
of the 60,000-page case file had been translated.
Sa Sovan said he was "very regretful" at the ruling.
"The suspect's rights have been violated. So there is no justice at this court,"
the lawyer said.
But the prosecution welcomed the decision, with Cambodian co-prosecutor
Chea Leang saying it was "very important" to make proceedings move
Khieu Samphan is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders who have been detained
by the court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity under
the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge's brutal 1975-1979 regime.
He went before the court for the first time in April last year to appeal
against his pre-trial detention.
The judges adjourned that 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.
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.
Up to two million people are believed to have been executed or died of
starvation and overwork as the communist regime emptied Cambodia's
cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an
The long-awaited first Khmer Rouge trial started earlier this week when
the regime's notorious prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, better known
by the alias Duch, went before the court.