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Release Duch: lawyers

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090402_01.jpg

Defence calls 10-year pretrial detention a violation of rights.

Photo by:
AFP/TANG CHHIN SOTHY

Buddhist monks walk toward the ECCC as the trial of former S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, reconvened Wednesday.  

A DAY after he made an impassioned apology to his victims, alleged torture chief Kaing Guek Eav sat Wednesday behind his lawyers at Cambodia's war crimes court as they argued for his release.

Defence lawyers for the 66-year-old former cadre, better known as Duch, opened the third day of criminal proceedings by arguing that their client, who has been detained for almost 10 years, has been robbed of his rights.

"The question of detention - can I still call it provisional detention? Detention that has been going on for 10 years is no longer provisional detention. This is the question I wish to address," said Duch's international co-lawyer, Francois Roux.

"The time [Duch] spent in prison since 1999 should be taken into account, and he is entitled to a reduction of sentence to compensate for the violation of his rights."

Duch, who on Tuesday publicly apologised for his role under the regime, quietly read and highlighted court documents on Wednesday as his lawyers fought for his release and a reduced sentence based on his extended pretrial detention.

Lawyers also reasserted their argument that without prosecuting the other hundreds of former prison chiefs, Duch was being singled out as a scapegoat.

"I request that the court list down all the names of those people who are most responsible, senior people in DK, and bring them all to be prosecuted. Otherwise, the court should issue a decision to extinguish my client's detention," Cambodian co-lawyer Kar Savuth said.

But co-prosecutors claimed releasing Duch on bail following a detailed public account of the torture centre he ran would put him personally at risk.

"If the trial chamber released [Duch] on bail, it's going to be an issue for victims and victims' families who are angry.... They could take revenge," Co-prosecutor Chea Leang said.

"This is an issue of safety and security. If such revenge occurred, it will also have an impact on public order if 

there is such an attack on the accused."

Former Tuol Sleng prison guard Him Huy also expressed concerns for his own safety if Duch was again allowed to walk the streets.

"If Duch is released from jail, I will be very concerned for my personal security because Duch killed my young brother in the KR era and would have liked to kill me too," he told the Post.

Civil parties excluded

After requesting to take part in the debate, lawyers for civil parties were excluded by judges based on the rules of the court, prompting Roux to warn: "We will hear you, but please, do not venture into areas which are not yours."  

Victim participation at the court has been a controversial issue: As the first tribunal of its kind to include victims as legal agents in proceedings, the court risks overcrowding its sessions.

"Provisional release is a massive issue for us. If Duch is released, it has a great impact on our clients. And because it is a crucial question, we were asking discretion in the rules to talk," said civil party lawyer Alain Werner outside the court.

Having already made a public confession, observers have begun speculating what an apology means for the hearing next to Duch's obvious desire to defend himself.

Well-known comedian Prom Manh said he was satisfied with Duch's apology, describing what it means to watch the trial having lost all his family members to the regime.

"I believe some witnesses and civil parties will not be satisfied 100 percent with the proceedings. But I think what [Duch] confessed [Tuesday] is true and as he is now a Christian, he believes his God will recognise him now that he has apologised," he said. 

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