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Tempers short as Duch questioning continues

With his credibility once again on trial yesterday, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, reacted irritably to further suggestions by defence lawyers in the tribunal’s Case 002 that he had provided contradictory accounts to the court.

Clearly growing weary of the sustained attacks he has endured for days as a witness under examination by the counsel of all three co-accused, Duch provided bizarre answers or flatly refused to respond to questions from Khieu Samphan’s co-defence lawyer, Arthur Vercken.

Vercken sought to establish the nature of Duch’s relationship with Khieu Samphan, the former nominal head of state of Democratic Kampuchea, as well as with former industry minister Vorn Vet and others.

But the tone of the proceedings quickly degenerated after Vercken began questioning Duch over why a statement he gave to a 1999 military tribunal appeared to show the former S-21 prison chief had given contradictory testimony during the trial.

“In that paper, Duch says: ‘I had conversations with people who had already been interrogated – including [Chhim Sam Aok alias] Pang,’” Vercken alleged.

“And here right now, you are telling me you hadn’t spoken to Pang after he was tortured.”

Duch flatly refused to answer further questions about Pang based on the military tribunal statement, employing the curious argument that it accurately summarised his comments about multiple people but could not be used to talk about one individual specifically.

Trial chamber president Judge Nil Nonn, Ieng Sary co-defence lawyer Michael Karnavas and deputy prosecutor William Smith all weighed into the dispute, with the latter two directing sharp criticisms at each other.

After Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne intervened to settle the situation, effectively eliciting from Duch that the military tribunal statement was only partly accurate, further complications arose.

Questions surrounding a special pass that allowed Duch to travel freely during the regime, issued by a figure named “Kang”, led to an extended debate about a confusing string of nicknames and signatures that the witness alleged confirmed it was signed by Khieu Samphan.

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

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