A lawyer for former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2 Nuon Chea yesterday named two suspects in the court’s fourth case while cross-examining a witness in Case 002, prompting the Trial Chamber to order him to suspend his line of questioning.
Michiel Pestman, co-defence counsel for Nuon Chea, asked 67-year-old former district secretary Prak Yut about previous testimony in which she named fellow former members of the “Sector 35 committee” in Kampot province.
Prak Yut repeated some of the names, stating that one among them was still alive, before then testifying that all the members had died.
Pestman asked whether one of the suspects in the fourth case was a former committee member, to which Prak Yut testified that he was.
“Why do you always forget to include his name when people ask you about the committee members in Sector 35?” Pestman enquired.
Trial Chamber president Nil Nonn interjected when Pestman asked Prak Yut whether she was aware of Case 004 – which is still under investigation – stating that she was not required to answer the question.
When Pestman persisted, he was told by the Trial Chamber to confine his questioning to facts concerning the first “mini-trial” in Case 002. Senior assistant co-prosecutor Dale Lysak called Pestman’s questions “entirely inappropriate”.
Pestman told the Post yesterday the defence suspected that Prak Yut knew the government “does not want Case 004”, and they should be permitted to ask questions if it “goes to the credibility of the witness”.
Under questioning from Judge Silvia Cartwright, Prak Yut said that she had not been threatened or told to be careful about what she said in court.
In the past, government officials have publicly indicated opposition to prosecutions beyond Case 002.
Court observers said yesterday that although the suspects’ names had been reported, they remained technically confidential, and the suspects had still not been assigned legal counsel.
“Nobody is looking out for their rights in these proceedings,” Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said.
“The court is not following regular procedure in cases 003 and 004, and that’s creating these dilemmas.”
When asked whether Pestman could be subject to sanction under court rules, Clair Duffy, a tribunal monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, said this was a “matter for the chamber”.
“The rule is that any defence counsel should be able to raise any issue about a witness’s credibility,” Duffy said.
“The question is, should they ask to go into closed sessions before they do that?”
Meanwhile, under questioning from the prosecution yesterday, Nuon Chea testified that the party’s central committee “did not think about” how many residents were hospitalised at the time of the evacuation of Phnom Penh in 1975.
“Everyone was evacuated, so those people who were strong they needed to help the poor and those who have the cars or the pushcarts can assist those who did not,” Nuon Chea said.