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Ieng Thirith defence team eyes quick exit

Lawyer for former Khmer Rouge social action minister Ieng Thirith yesterday requested that the case against her be discontinued as soon as possible if she is found unfit to stand trial.

Diana Ellis, co-defence counsel for 79-year-old Ieng Thirith, said in a special hearing on her client’s fitness to stand trial that expert evidence provided to the Trial Chamber on her  health was “unequivocal”.

“Our submission is that she shouldn’t just be severed from this indictment – as it stands, the case should be discontinued because she is unfit and not likely to in any meaningful way recover,” she said.

The Trial Chamber will have to consider whether Ieng Thirith has a separate trial from the three other accused in case 002 or whether the charges against her, including crimes against humanity and genocide, are discontinued.

Ellis told the Post via email that if her client was declared unfit to stand trial she should not simply be left in detention.

“If Ieng Thirith’s cognitive impairment can be improved sufficiently for her to meaningfully participate in the trial and exercise her fair trial rights, then the appropriate course is to sever her and try her when she is fit,” she said.

“We think the medical evidence indicates that there is no realistic prospect of this.”

Senior assistant co-prosecutor Tarik Abdulhak said in court that discontinuance or termination of proceedings was “entirely inappropriate”.

“It is not appropriate in our view to sever now . . . simply because Ieng Thirith requires additional treatment,” he said.

British forensic psychiatrist Seena Fazel and Cambodian psychiatrist Huot Lina gave further testimony yesterday on their medical assessment of Ieng Thirith.

The two testified on Wednesday that Ieng Thirith had “dementia” – the most likely form of which was Alzheimer’s ­– and would likely “interrupt” proceedings in case 002 should she be declared fit to stand trial.

Defence teams for the co-accused yesterday supported a move for Ieng Thirith to be tried separately from the other accused in case 002.

“The difficult choice, and regrettable to some, is that in this case, Mrs Ieng Thirith must be severed from this case and allow the proceedings to go forward in an expeditious manner,” Michael Karnavas, lawyer for former KR foreign minister and Ieng Thirith’s husband Ieng Sary, said.

Opening statements for case 002 are set to commence on November 21.

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