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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Court and lawyers at odds over Nuon Chea’s health

Court and lawyers at odds over Nuon Chea’s health

Though the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s court president yesterday announced co-accused Nuon Chea would be discharged from hospital today, Nuon Chea’s defence maintained he was still unwell.

After lunch, Nuon Chea’s international co-counsel, Victor Koppe, told the court he and his colleague, Son Arun, had found their client’s condition had deteriorated when they visited him on Tuesday.

“For reasons I will not elaborate on in public, Mr Nuon Chea and his family were convinced that Mr Nuon Chea was approaching death,” Koppe said.  “Just yesterday, I informed the court that our client was improving, based on a medical report received. That information no longer reflects the reality as we witnessed it yesterday afternoon.”

Koppe later announced Nuon Chea had withdrawn his waiver of his right to be present for the reading of documents about him.

Immediately following this news, however, Trial Chamber president Nil Nonn said that “treating doctors of Mr Nuon Chea at the Khmer-Soviet Hospital conducted an exam and noted that his general condition is good.”

Doctors and the hospital’s director had approved Nuon Chea to be discharged at 2pm today, after two weeks of hospitalisation, Nonn later said.

According to the doctors’ report, Nuon Chea coughed occasionally and was still weak, but his body temperature was normal and he was continuing to improve, Nonn said.

After the hearing, Son Arun said Nuon Chea’s condition was “not like the president said. He’s very weak, so he doesn’t know much and is always sleeping [and has] closed eyes. When we ask something, he sometimes answers, sometimes not. He doesn’t want to talk to anyone – even [his] wife and daughter.”

Nuon Chea’s team planned to object this morning to the plan to discharge him and to ask for another doctor’s opinion, Arun said, adding that it seemed impossible to move Nuon Chea without great discomfort –
even into an ambulance.

“He cannot walk, he cannot sit up, he cannot turn his body,” Arun said.

The rest of the day, document hearings focused on the roles of Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan in Democratic Kampuchea as foreign affairs minister and head of state, respectively.

Although some statements by Khieu Samphan read yesterday suggested concerns about measures such as the evacuation of Phnom Penh and the abolition of currency, documents dealing with Ieng Sary suggested a more harsh approach, particularly to those deemed “spies and traitors”.

In a 1978 telegram responding to the UN, Sary reportedly said “Democratic Kampuchea will make mincemeat” of anyone attempting to undermine the “revolution”.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justine Drennan at [email protected]

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