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Forty years sought for S-21 chief

PROSECUTORS at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday requested a 40-year sentence for Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, saying the length would “reflect his conscious and free choice to abandon all respect for human life” while overseeing the torture and execution of more than 12,000 detainees.

The decision not to request a life sentence, the maximum allowed under Cambodian law, was prompted by several factors, including the unlawful nature of Duch’s pretrial detention.

Duch was first apprehended in 1999 and held in a Cambodian military court until 2007, when he was transferred to the tribunal. Under Cambodian law, the maximum length of time he should have been held in pretrial detention was three years. The Trial Chamber ruled in June that the period Duch spent at the military court had been “an error of application of procedural law”.

Acting international co-prosecutor William Smith said Wednesday that “the conversion of a life sentence to 45 years” would be an “appropriate remedy” for what he termed a “serious” violation of Duch’s rights.

In addition, Smith asked the judges to reduce Duch’s sentence by five years for his “general cooperation, limited acceptance of responsibility, his conditional remorse and the possible effect it may have on national reconciliation”.

The sentence request angered at least one Tuol Sleng survivor: civil party Chum Mey.

“For me personally, I think the court should sentence Duch for at least 70 or 80 years, or the whole life imprisonment,” he said. “And in my heart, Duch should be punished by hanging. But we do not have the law that allows that.”

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