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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Political meddling at ECCC confirmed, say intl lawyers

Political meddling at ECCC confirmed, say intl lawyers

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090604_03.jpg

Foreign lawyers for Nuon Chea have accused top court officials of

breaching the tribunal's independence laws, amid pressure from the

government.

Photo by: AFP/ECCC POOL

Co-prosecutors Robert Petit, of Canada, and Cambodian Chea Leang at the Extraordinary Chambers in this file photograph. Lawyers for former Brother No 2 Nuon Chea have accused Chea Leang of receiving instructions from the government.

INTERNATIONAL lawyers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal said they have been "reliably informed" that national co-prosecutor Chea Leang has received instructions from the government not to prosecute more suspects at the UN-backed court.

They also said they have evidence suggesting that the government blocked judges from interviewing Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Father Norodom Sihanouk, as well as other top government officials, as part of an investigation into their client.

In four separate emails sent to the two investigating judges and two prosecutors - and forwarded to the press - the foreign lawyers representing Nuon Chea claimed the top officials were in breach of the court's law on independence and requested them to confirm or deny allegations in writing.

"We are reliably informed that you [Chea Leang] have received instructions from the [government] not to pursue the prosecutions which form the basis of the disagreement," an email to Cambodian prosecutor Chea Leang stated.

"Therefore, on information and belief, it appears your office may be in breach of ... the ECCC agreement and ... the ECCC law," it added.

An email to international co-prosecutor Robert Petit claimed lawyers had also been "reliably informed" Petit was in possession of "actual or constructive knowledge" that Chea Leang had received  such instructions, and, as such, accused Petit of being in breach of the same court laws.

Petit would not comment on the allegations Wednesday except to say that he had read the email, and that he was "well aware of [his] responsibilities, both as a UN official and a member of the bar".

The emails to the judges cited a recent report by court monitors at the Open Society Justice Initiative, which said court sources had verified that the government was "attempting to block" the investigating judges from interviewing certain "insider" or "high-level witnesses" in the

government. As a result, lawyers said, judges were also in breach of court law.

Co-lawyer Michiel Pestman confirmed that allegations towards the judges related to the recent dismissal of requests by his defence team to interview the prime minister and other government officials. He would not name any of the sources for the information.

"Without independent judges, there's never going to be a fair trial," Pestman said.

Chea Leang said Wednesday that she had not yet read the email and so could not comment. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan could not be reached for comment.

In a press conference earlier in the day, Chea Leang denied that there was political interference at the court. "This court is an independent court," she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NETH PHEAKTRA

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