Khmer Rouge leader to go before Cambodia genocide court

22nd April 2008, Comments 0 comments

The former head of state will be defended by famed French lawyer Jacques Verges on Wednesday before the UN-backed court.

22 April 2008

PHNOM PENH - Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan will be defended by famed French lawyer Jacques Verges when he appeals Wednesday against his detention by Cambodia's genocide tribunal.

Verges, who has defended some of the world's most notorious figures including Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan terrorist "Carlos the Jackal," declined to comment Tuesday about the hearing or why Khieu Samphan should be released on bail.

"Wait until tomorrow, not today," he told AFP.

A fierce anti-colonialist, Verges reportedly befriended Khieu Samphan and other future Khmer Rouge leaders while at university in Paris in the 1950s.

It will be Khieu Samphan's first public appearance before the UN-backed court set up to try former Khmer Rouge leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity during their brutal 1975-1979 rule.

"It is the first time for Khieu Samphan to appear in the hearing to appeal against his detention," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath told AFP.

Khieu Samphan, aged 76 according to court documents, was the last of five top regime leaders to be arrested and detained by the tribunal in November 2007 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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 agrarian utopia.

The Khmer Rouge also abolished money, religion and schools.

Khieu Samphan has never denied the bloodletting suffered under the Khmer Rouge, but the former head of state of Cambodia's radical communist government has never admitted to a role in the regime's excesses.

He has repeatedly denied his involvement in the crimes.

Cambodia's genocide tribunal convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of haggling between the government and the United Nations over how to prosecute those behind one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.

Public trials of the regime's five top surviving leaders are expected to begin later this year.

[AFP / Expatica]

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