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KR Tribunal hearing deferred

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090302_03.jpg

In the absence of his famous French lawyer Jacques Verges, a bail

hearing for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan is postponed

to April.

Photo by: AFP

Khieu Samphan in the courtroom during a pretrial chamber public hearing at the ECCC on Friday.

CAMBODIA'S UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal Friday adjourned a bail hearing for the former regime's head of state Khieu Samphan due to the absence of his famed international defence lawyer, Jacques Verges.

The 77-year-old Khieu Samphan, who faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, requested the court defer proceedings until his co-lawyer could attend.

"I would like to request that the pretrial chamber adjourn this meeting to a later date," he told judges from the dock.

Cambodian co-lawyer Sa Sovan told the court that Verges had been called to the bedside of a relative who had been in a serious traffic accident and was in a life-or-death situation.

Later in a press conference, however, he told reporters that it was an important colleague of Verges's who was in hospital.

History of delay tactics

Verges, whose previous clients include Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and international terrorist Carlos the Jackal, has been accused of willfully delaying procedings with disruptive courtroom tactics.  

"I cannot force myself to believe that all these explanations are true," civil party lawyer Ny Chandy told reporters at the press conference.  

"If it happens next time, we civil parties will be forced to continue without him," he added.

However, Sa Sovan said Verge's absence was "unexpected".

"Frankly, we, the defence, do not really want to delay the proceeding because we made a request to release the charged person," he said.

"We would be happier if our client was released tomorrow, as I think this matter is more unintentional and unexpected."

Judge Prak Kimsan, president of the pretrial chamber, said that the hearing would be adjourned until April 3, as requested by Sa Sovan.

Khieu Samphan is one of the five Khmer Rouge leaders being held at the tribunal for their role in the regime.

Although the trial of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav began last month, many victims of the regime have feared that the other four suspects, now ageing and sick, could die before they are tried. 

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