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Duch’s family ‘tragedy’

Christopher LaPel, 51, Duch’s pastor, testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday.

S-21 chief describes arrest and execution of brother-in-law.

TUOL Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, said Tuesday that fear of punishment from Khmer Rouge leaders prompted him to implement an order that led to the detention, interrogation, torture and execution of his own brother-in-law.

The brother-in-law, who married one of Duch’s younger sisters, was deputy chief of the security office in Kampong Thom province when Central Zone Secretary Kae Pok arrested him in 1977. Through a prison guard, the brother-in-law sent a secret letter to Duch in Phnom Penh saying he had been detained and was suffering from dysentery.

Duch promptly sent the letter to his superior, Son Sen. The brother-in-law and his family were then allowed to travel to the capital.

Duch said that, when they arrived, “they were not tied or anything, and they were happy, and they thought they were out of trouble already”.

But a few months later, Son Sen informed Duch that the brother-in-law was to be interrogated.

“I knew that I was asked to arrest my brother-in-law, shackle him, interrogate him and smash,” Duch told the court. “But I did not do that. I made him write his confession without being shackled.”

Son Sen reprimanded Duch for breaking with standard procedure, telling him it was “dangerous” to behave “as a human being”, Duch said.

Duch testified that he decided to go through with the arrest after concluding that the brother-in-law posed a threat to his family.

“If I kept him alive, then I would be in danger and the whole family would be gone. So I had him arrested, shackled, interrogated and tortured,” he said.

Another brother-in-law was arrested and executed elsewhere during the regime, and a third died while fleeing Phnom Penh in 1979. Duch said he also lost two sisters and six nieces and nephews to the Khmer Rouge and described the deaths as “the tragedy that has been inflicted on my family”.

Duch’s pastor testifies
Earlier in the day, the tribunal heard from Christopher LaPel, Duch’s pastor, who described him as a “a man of God” with a “serving heart” who was eager “to share God’s love with others”.

LaPel, 51, said he met Duch in December 1995 when the former prison chief, then going by the name Hang Pin, began attending worship services in Battambang province.

The pastor said he only learned Duch’s real name when an Associated Press reporter contacted him in April 1999 for a story on the former prison chief.

“That was a surprise for me,” LaPel said, though he added that it was evidence of God’s ability to change someone “from the killer to the believer”.

LaPel, a character witness appearing for the defence, said he had no trouble forgiving Duch despite the fact that he lost family members to the Khmer Rouge as well as close friends who were sent to Tuol Sleng.

“When I met Duch in June 2008, I told him that I love him and I forgive him for what he had done to my parents, my brothers, my sister and my close friends at S-21,” he said. “I speak for myself – as a Christian, as a believer in Jesus Christ.”



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