Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister appears in court for 1st time

Former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary appeared Monday in a U.N.-backed court to appeal for his release on bail, in what marked his first appearance in court and before the public since his arrest late last year. Ieng Sary appeared in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in front of five Cambodian and foreign judges and several hundred spectators, including Khmer Rouge victims and their relatives as well as dozens of local and foreign journalists. His lawyer Ang Udom told reporters earlier that Ieng Sary is innocent of the charges against him -- crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge in the latter half of the 1970s. He also argued that the ECCC has no jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute Ieng Sary because the defendant was already prosecuted, tried, convicted and sentenced to death in absentia in 1979, only to later be amnestied by the government for breaking away from the Khmer Rouge and leading a mass defection in August 1996. But the prosecution argues that the ECCC is not bound by domestic pardons, even if validly granted, saying a national amnesty for international crimes like genocide and crimes against humanity cannot bar prosecution before an internationalized tribunal. Ieng Sary, 83, is one of the five suspects identified by the court set up to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to trial for crimes committed during the 1975-1979 genocide in which at least 1.7 million Cambodians died. He was arrested in November along with his wife Ieng Thirith, who was a social affairs minister in the Khmer Rouge government. One week before their arrest, Ieng Sary told Kyodo News at his home in Phnom Penh that he had ''never ordered anyone killed'' during the reign of the Khmer Rouge and that he was merely in charge of foreign affairs.
Kyodo June 30, 2008