FOUR former Khmer Rouge cadres were sentenced Tuesday to jail terms of up to 20 years for the kidnapping and murder of British deminer Christopher Howes and his Cambodian interpreter Houn Hourth, drawing to a close a 12-year-quest to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"Today we feel that justice has been done for our two colleagues," Mines Advisory Group (MAG) CEO Lou McGrath, who is representing the Howes family, said in a statement.
"For over 12 years the families of our colleagues have been fighting for this verdict.... Hopefully now, the loved ones of Chris and Hourth can finally move on with [their] lives."
Howes was leading a team of MAG deminers in 1996 when they were kidnapped outside Siem Reap. He was offered the chance to leave in return for a ransom but instead chose to stay with his team. He was later shot in the chest and his body burned after being taken to the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng.
Khem Ngun, the RCAF brigadier general charged with ordering the murder, was sentenced to 20 years in jail, despite his plea that those higher up the Khmer Rouge chain of command were responsible.
Cadre Loch Mao and Puth Lim were also sentenced to 20 years for their involvement in the execution. Sin Dorn, a fourth accused, was sentenced to 10 years, while a fifth, Cheath Cheth, was acquitted.
Judge Iv Kim Sri also ordered US$10,000 compensation be paid to Houn Hourth's wife.
Puth Lim, who was charged with driving the captives to their death, reasserted his innocence to journalists outside the court.
"I am not the person who killed Howes," he said.