Sun, Oct 19, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Tribunal refuses to release suspect in Khmer Rouge trial


Cambodia’s genocide tribunal on Friday rejected an appeal by the Khmer Rouge’s former foreign minister for his release from pretrial detention on charges of crimes against humanity and war atrocities.

Judge Prak Kim San rejected Ieng Sary’s appeal out of concern he could flee if released.

Peter Foster, a spokesman for the UN-assisted tribunal, said the judge’s ruling was also based on concerns that Ieng Sary could intimidate potential witnesses.

The tribunal is seeking to establish accountability for an estimated 1.7 million deaths and other atrocities under the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime.

Ieng Sary, 82, is one of five former senior members of the ultra-communist regime detained by the tribunal.

His wife, Ieng Thirith, the former social affairs minister, is also detained on charges of crimes against humanity.

During a hearing in July, defense attorneys argued that Ieng Sary should be released because of ill health and the possibility that a prosecution would constitute double jeopardy — being judged twice for the same crime.

Ieng Sary was condemned to death by a tribunal under a communist government installed by Vietnamese troops after they toppled the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. That tribunal was a show trial with no real defense.

Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk pardoned Ieng Sary in 1996 as a reward for leading thousands of his fellow guerrillas to join the government, a move that foreshadowed the Khmer Rouge’s final collapse in 1999 and brought an end to the country’s civil war.

The pardon once threatened to derail negotiations between the Cambodia and the UN on establishing the tribunal.

After years of difficult talks, the two sides agreed on a tribunal pact in 2003 which contains a clause preventing the government from seeking “amnesty or pardon for any persons who may be investigated for or convicted of crimes” during Khmer Rouge rule.

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