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Monday 30 June 2008

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister to appeal pretrial detention

The Associated Press
Published: June 29, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The former foreign minister of the now-defunct Khmer Rouge movement plans to appeal to Cambodia's genocide tribunal for release from his pretrial detention, a court spokesman said Sunday.

The United Nations-assisted tribunal has charged Ieng Sary, 82, with crimes against humanity and war crimes. He will appear on Monday to press for his release, tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.

Ieng Sary is one of five defendants being held by the tribunal, which plans to begin its first trial later this year. His wife, 76-year-old Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge's social affairs minister, is also being held on charges of crimes against humanity.

The tribunal, jointly run by Cambodian and international personnel, is attempting to establish accountability for atrocities committed by the communist group when it ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

The group's radical policies resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

In their detention order in November, the investigating judges said Ieng Sary is being prosecuted for supporting Khmer Rouge policies that were "characterized by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhuman acts such as forcible transfers of the population, enslavement and forced labor."

Ieng Sary has dismissed the charges as "unacceptable" and demanded evidence to support them, according to a copy of his detention order.

Ang Udom, Ieng Sary's lawyer, said he planned to challenge earlier assertions by the judges that his client would be a flight risk and a threat to witnesses if released.

"My client is too old. He cannot escape from Cambodia," Ang Udom said. "If he wanted, he could have done so long before his arrest."

Ieng Sary and his wife belonged to the inner circle of the Khmer Rouge and were in-laws of the movement's late leader, Pol Pot, who was married to Khieu Ponnary, Ieng Thirith's sister. Ieng Thirith took her husband's surname after they got married.

In 1996, Ieng Sary received a royal pardon from former King Norodom Sihanouk as a reward for breaking away from Pol Pot and leading his followers to join the government. The mutiny foreshadowed the Khmer Rouge's collapse three years later in 1999.

But the pardon had no bearing on the Cambodia-U.N. tribunal pact. Similar appeals by other defendants have failed.

The three other suspects in custody awaiting trial are Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, Nuon Chea, the former chief ideologist, and Kaing Guek Eav — also known as Duch — who headed the Khmer Rouge's S-21 torture center.

The tribunal has said it plans to start Duch's trial in September.

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