FORMER Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, plans to appoint a Chinese defence lawyer to replace dismissed French attorney Francois Roux, his Cambodian lawyer said.
In an interview on Saturday with Radio France Internationale, Kar Savuth said his client planned to bring in a Chinese attorney after the Khmer Rouge tribunal hands down its historic first verdict on July 26.
“The reason that Duch wants a Chinese lawyer is because China is a communist country and during the Pol Pot regime [Cambodia] was also a communist country,” he said. “He doesn’t want a lawyer from a free country to judge the communist people.”
Kar Savuth said the new lawyer will be chosen after the verdict, and that he will continue to represent Duch if a suitable Chinese candidate cannot be found.
“If they cannot find a [Chinese] lawyer, a Cambodian lawyer will be fine, because Duch only wants a Chinese lawyer,” he said.
Kar Savuth’s comments came a day after the tribunal announced that Duch had fired Roux due to a “loss of confidence” in his representation.
The court’s Defence Support Section noted in a statement Friday that Duch is not permitted to appoint a new international co-lawyer until after the July 26 verdict.
During the closing arguments of Duch’s trial in November, Kar Savuth split with Roux by supporting their client’s request for release and acquittal.
The surprise move reversed the defence team’s earlier strategy of emphasising Duch’s contrition and cooperation in pushing for a mitigated sentence.
Long Panhavuth, a project officer at the Cambodia Justice Initiative, called the sacking of Roux “unsurprising”, given the earlier rift. He said it was likely motivated by a desire to forge consensus about whether to launch an appeal against the upcoming verdict.
“Duch needs a person who will agree with him about the appeal,” he said.
He added that the dismissal of Roux – now serving as head of the defence office at the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon – would make little difference for the July 26 verdict hearing, since Roux was not expected to attend.
Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, described the dismissal as “mystifying”, especially so close to the verdict date, but agreed it suggested that Duch intends to appeal.
“The only reason to get another lawyer is if you’re set for more litigation.... This makes me think that they’re likely to appeal,” she said. She added, though, that “it could also be personal”.