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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nuon Chea slams S-21 chief, then goes silent

Nuon Chea slams S-21 chief, then goes silent

Brother No 2 Nuon Chea’s selective silence yesterday sparked heated exchanges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal after the war crimes suspect made a statement slamming a witness and then refused to answer questions.

Nuon Chea attacked former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, for implicating him as a direct superior when testifying recently as a witness.  

“I would like to inform the Cambodian people that I have never had [at] any time, ever been responsible for the operation of S-21. What Duch has accused me [of] has been untruthful,” Nuon Chea said.

But he subsequently refused to answer any questions, eliciting a swift rebuke from assistant prosecutor Dale Lysak and civil party lead co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau Fort.

“It is clearly not acceptable for an accused to waive his right to silence and then make a statement to the court effectively saying ‘I did not do it, I had nothing to do with S-21, and Duch is a liar’,” Dale Lysak said.

It had been made clear to Nuon Chea, that if he wanted to make a statement, he would have to face questions, he added.

The Trial Chamber eventually ruled that Nuon Chea could make statements and not answer questions, but in doing so, his testimony could be assessed for credibility.

When the dust settled over another spat that involved accusations of intimidating a witness, there was more grief to come for Nuon Chea.

As the prosecution attempted to establish the Khmer Rouge’s specific communication structures, witness Sot Toeung, one of Nuon Chea’s former bodyguards, testified that Nuon Chea had frequently travelled across the country meeting senior members of the regime such as Ta Mok, Ta Nhim and So Phim.

These figures, along with the regime’s leader, Pol Pot, co-accused Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan would also meet with Nuon Chea in Phnom Penh, staying at the K1 and K3 administrative centres, he said.

He also told the court Nuon Chea had “very frequently” visited dams – notorious sites of starvation and forced labour under the Democratic Kampuchea regime – to check on construction.

But conflicting testimony given earlier by Sot Toeung related to his whereabouts will open up questions about the credibility of his evidence when defence parties question him tomorrow.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at david.boyle@phnompenhpost.com

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