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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Doctors pronounce Nuon Chea mentally fit

Doctors pronounce Nuon Chea mentally fit

After a course of physical examinations spanning the last few weeks, Brother Number

2, Nuon Chea, 82, was judged mentally and physically ready to stand trial for Khmer

Rouge war crimes, the tribunal announced on November 1.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) also announced that it

has separated the case file for the first defendant arrested, former torture prison

chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his alias Duch, from the other defendants.

The judicial investigation into his role as chief of the Toul Sleng detention center

"should be brought to a close in the coming months," the statement said.

The aim is to conclude the investigation during the first half of 2008.

Duch's lawyer, Ka Savuth, declined comment.

Nuon Chea's health has been a cause of speculation for the last month as conflicting

reports about his hospital visits emerged. The octogenarian was arrested at his home

outside Pailin on September 19.

"He underwent an in-depth examination including a coronarography. These examinations

concluded that he is in a stable condition and that there is no medical reason which

would run counter to his detention conditions or participation in the judicial investigation,"

said a statement released by the ECCC. He was examined by three doctors.

Nuon Chea "retains perfectly satisfactory intellectual autonomy for his age,"

the statement said. "Medical follow-up will be ensured, including further expert

medical examinations two or three times a year."

According to Peter Foster, United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

(UNAKRT) spokesperson, the separation of the 63-year-old Duch's case means that "there

will now be at least two separate cases from the original co-prosecutors submission

of five names. We still do not yet know if the remaining names from the submission

will be tried together or in a group or in a couple of groups."

The court is widely expected to make another arrest soon. The most likely additional

KR defendants are Khieu Samphan, 76, and Ieng Sary, 78 and his wife Ieng Thirith,

75. Questions have come up about Thirith's mental abilities as she may be suffering

from dementia. Ieng Sary is also in poor physical health, according to people who

have recently seen him requiring assistance walking to his pagoda.

For the benefit of potential civil parties, the statement also noted that in addition

to the alleged crimes perpetrated at Toul Sleng, the overall ongoing judicial investigation

"covers three broad categories of alleged crimes: forced movements of the population;

killings, torture and other abuses at a range of security and detention centers;

and forced labor, unlawful detention and inhuman living conditions perpetrated in

other locations."

Victims who have queries on the process for filing Civil Party applications will

soon be able to visit the court's Victims Unit which will become operational "in

coming days," the statement said. Until then, requests for information may be

made directly to the office of the Co-Investigating Judges, it added.

Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, said the separation of Duch's

file from the other investigations could be due to the fact that there are two groups

of people who will be tried at the ECCC - those "most responsible" for

crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge, and "senior leaders."

"Duch belongs to the second group - those 'most responsible' - and the others,

such as Nuon Chea, belong to the first - 'senior leaders' - the level of responsibility

is different," said Saray.

Saray said the most important thing for the court to focus on now is whether defendants

will be freed on bail.

"They haven't decided if they can keep detaining them," he said. "Duch's

lawyer has filed a complaint to the court saying his client should be released on

bail. There will be a hearing on November 20, and we - NGOs, members of civil society

- believe he should be detained more, that he should not be freed on bail."

Foster said the November 1 announcements were part of the court's new plan to give

regular updates so the public can keep current on the courts progress.

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