The Khieu Samphan defence yesterday filed a request to the Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, asking that their client be released from detention and placed under “judicial control”, arguing that his five-year provisional detention has violated his right to be presumed innocent.
According to the defence, the length of the hearing has been prejudicial to his fair-trial rights, and ongoing concerns over the health of his co-accused, Nuon Chea, as well as the court’s financial woes, render unlikely the possibility that judges can deliver a verdict in a timely fashion – if at all.
“How and when will Mr. Khieu Samphan be judged for the entirety of the charges approved against him in the closing order?” the filing asks, calling it “intolerable” to keep an accused in detention without the prospect of a judgment in the foreseeable future.
The defence recommended a number of conditions to be imposed upon Samphan’s release, including surrendering his identification documents to the court, taking visits from authorities, submitting to regular medical checks and avoiding contact with the media and anyone scheduled to testify at the trial.
Noting that since the former Khmer Rouge head of state has “no passport, no money, no residence abroad and is very attached to his family ... it is absurd to imagine that, at close to 82 years old, Mr. Khieu Samphan could go back to living in the jungle.”
Cambodian Justice Initiative program officer Panhavuth Long said that Samphan’s lengthy detention may indeed be a violation of his rights.
Long added that because Samphan’s right to a fair trial could be affected by delays due to national side funding and the health of Nuon Chea, “the only way” to keep him in pre-trial detention would be to try Samphan separately under the full scope of charges against him in Case 002, as opposed to those within the first mini-trial.
Though it is unclear when the first mini-trial against the pair would wrap up, a schedule proposed by the prosecution and released yesterday suggests evidentiary hearings could finish “by the end of July 2013” with closing arguments coming two months later. In an interview given with American public radio station WBEZ last week, UN’s special expert on the ECCC, David Scheffer, suggested as much, saying, “We’d be looking at early 2014 for a judgment.”