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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nuon Chea seals lips, too

Nuon Chea seals lips, too

Little more than a week after co-accused Khieu Samphan’s defence team said their client would refuse to answer further questions in court, the Khmer Rouge regime’s former second-in-command Nuon Chea followed suit.

Directly addressing the chamber, he – like Samphan before him – slammed the court for failing to deliver a fair trial and accused it of favouring the prosecution.

“This is a case of life and death for me, not [an] expeditious procedure to punish me,” he said, adding that his counsel had been continually prohibited from asking “substantive questions” to defend his case.

On Monday, Chea’s defence team struggled to get past volleys of prosecution objections as they questioned historian witness Stephen Heder about his time working for the court’s investigating body.

Chea stated yesterday that he would not answer further questions posed by judges or civil parties — which are scheduled for next week — as Case 002/01 draws to a close.

With both co-accused clamming up and Heder the last witness scheduled to testify in this case, final statements at the end of the trial will likely be the last words heard from Samphan and Chea before a verdict is delivered.

Prosecutor Tarik Abdulhak said the revocation of the right to silence by the accused should lead to “adverse inferences” being drawn against them by the chamber when considering their guilt.

Lead civil party co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau-Fort also chimed in, saying the accused and their defence teams were “positioning themselves as victims” by asking for rules affecting the scope of the trial to be applied but objecting when they befall them.

“Even if I am flabbergasted by what I have heard, I am not surprised. I regret infinitely what is happening,” she said.

Separately, Khieu Samphan’s defence laboriously questioned Heder yesterday – eliciting confirmation that Samphan’s leadership titles were “bogus” and that real power lay with Pol Pot.

He also confirmed that the real situation in regime cooperatives was often said to be hidden from KR leaders, with a “false façade” said to have been created when senior figures visited the grassroots level.

However, the tedious nature of defence attempts to negotiate Heder’s role as a witness, instead of an expert, and continuous objections from the prosecution as to the admissibility of witness statements used in questioning, meant progress was slow.

In light of that, an extra session of questioning was granted for today.

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