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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Defence lawyers condemn halt of KR tribunal probe

Defence lawyers condemn halt of KR tribunal probe

Express their concern at the unexplained end of a criminal investigation into corruption at the UN-backed court

THE abrupt termination of a criminal investigation into corruption at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has been condemned by defence lawyers who say the unresolved allegations would likely remain a "thorn in the tribunal's side" for many more months to come.

"On Wednesday we have someone who has said they will investigate, and within 24 hours we get this letter saying they won't," said Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for Nuon Chea's defence team Sunday.

He said the investigation had conducted a series of preliminary interviews and was poised to question further witnesses suspected of mismanagement when he received the letter announcing the prosecutor's intention to "hold the case pending without executing".

"I would question [the municipal] court's motivations, considering that an investigation was abruptly terminated without a proper explanation," Ianuzzi said, adding that they intend to file an appeal.

The investigation at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court began last month after foreign lawyers for former KR leader Nuon Chea filed a complaint to the court claiming unresolved allegations threatened the legitimacy of the tribunal and, thus, their client's right to a fair trial.

"We were hopeful that an investigation by a local prosecutor could help clear up some of these issues, and we are very disappointed that the investigation has been prematurely aborted," Chief of Defence Richard Rogers said Sunday.

"Depending on the nature and extent of the alleged corruption, it could affect the accused's right to a fair trial," he added.

Lawyers had accused Sean Visoth, the government's top official to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, as well as the court's former chief of personnel, Keo Thyvuth, of violating criminal law by "perpetrating, facilitating, aiding and/or abetting an organised regime of institutional corruption at the ECCC during the pending judicial investigation".

Sok Kaliyan, the Phnom Penh Court's deputy prosecutor in charge of the investigation, and Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan were unavailable for comment Sunday. 

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