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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-KR get life for train killings

Ex-KR get life for train killings

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Two former Khmer Rouge commanders received life sentences for the abduction and killing

of three backpackers in 1994.

Nuon Paet, sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the 1994 killing of three foreign backpackers by Khmer Rouge forces is mobbed by news media representatives, September 4.

Chhouk Rin was sentenced by the Appeal Court on September 6, while his former boss

Nuon Paet had his life sentence confirmed at the Supreme Court two days earlier.

However as the decision in Rin's case was delivered in absentia, his lawyer, Puth

Theavy, is entitled to again appeal the case to the Appeal Court. Theavy had earlier

decried the September 6 verdict, and protested the court's refusal to allow him to

summon any of 21 defense witnesses

"The verdict was an injustice for my client because the court rejected all the

important witnesses," Theavy said, adding that the court had buckled to political

pressure from the UK, France and Australia for a conviction.

Theavy told the Post September 12 that he would file the appeal with the Appeal Court

once he received official notification of the verdict. Theavy's interpretation of

the law was confirmed by Ea Sopheap, the Cambodian lawyer for the family of Briton

Mark Slater.

Theavy said it could be weeks or months until the case is re-heard at the Appeal

Court. Rin is entitled to his freedom until a final verdict is delivered by the Supreme

Court, to which Theavy will certainly appeal if his client loses the next Appeal

Court hearing.

The Appeal Court had overturned Rin's acquittal at Phnom Penh's Municipal Court two

years ago for the train ambush in which 13 Cambodians died, and the three foreigners

- Australian David Wilson 29, Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, 27, and Slater, 28 -

were kidnapped.

The three were executed around two months later as Cambodian army units moved into

the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Phnom Voar where they were being held.

The appeal was brought by the family of Braquet who were outraged that the lower

court had ruled that a 1994 amnesty law, designed to encourage KR defections, applied

to Rin.

The Appeal Court's presiding judge Samrith Sophal agreed with the families, saying

Rin was guilty of terrorism and could not escape responsibility for what happened

as the train raid was undertaken by soldiers under his command.

After the verdict was read out, one of Theavy's rebuffed witnesses, Ouch Nuon, said

Rin's conviction would cause outrage in Phnom Voar.

"I am one of the witnesses for Chhouk Rin, and along with hundreds of villagers

and soldiers in Phnom Voar I am not happy [at the verdict]," said Nuon. "The

decision by the Appeal Court is wrong and is an injustice."

Jean-Claude Braquet, the father of the murdered French hostage, said he was satisfied

with the court's decision but expressed regret that the courts had made him wait

eight years for justice.

He applauded the judge's ruling that Chhouk Rin was not covered by the 1994 amnesty,

saying that it only applied to political not criminal offenses.

"I was happy with the result and I can say that the Cambodian judicial system

is capable of trying criminals," Braquet said. He also called for further prosecutions

in the case, stating that Rin was not the only person responsible.

On September 4 the Supreme Court ended the hopes of Rin's former boss Nuon Paet that

he would be acquitted of the killings. It upheld the Appeal Court's sentence of life

in jail which was handed down two years ago.

Paet told reporters the verdict was unjust, and said he would appeal to Prime Minister

Hun Sen. During a break in proceedings before the sentence was read out, Paet told

reporters he had tried to negotiate a ceasefire and the release of the three backpackers.

"I regret their deaths," he said. "I only arrived after they were

shot dead."

Paet said that rebel commander Vith Vorn, who died in unclear circumstances around

a year after the attack, and KR regional commander Sam Bith, who is currently awaiting

trial, were responsible. Bith is likely to be the last suspect to face charges for

his alleged role.

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman welcomed the court's decisions.

"These positive developments testify to the progress achieved in the consolidation

of the state of law in Cambodia, and allow hope that justice for all will finally

be provided in this sad affair,"a press statement issued September 11 said.

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