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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tensions ignite in last day of scope hearing

Tensions ignite in last day of scope hearing

The defence and prosecution hewed closely to their established positions during the third day of severance hearings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, with the occasional spark flying as the parties continued to debate everything from scheduling conflicts to the very scope of the present trial.

Prosecution and civil party lawyers continued to assert that testimony should continue and that the S-21 detention centre could be added to the list of crime sites in a newly severed Case 002/01 with minimal additional hearings, while the defence challenged both positions at each turn, continuing to make the case that in the interest of both expediency and fairness, the court was obligated to try all of Case 002 as a whole.

“What, if any, prejudice is caused to any party if witnesses are heard before the scope of the trial is known?” asked civil party lawyer Lyma Nguyen, speaking in regards to experts Philip Short and Elizabeth Becker, who are scheduled to be heard before a final decision on severance is likely to be rendered.

“Since the focal areas upon which these experts should be examined [are unclear], there will be some prejudice for all parties, and this is not an ideal situation,” she continued, suggesting that the Trial Chamber offer a preliminary decision on the trial’s scope to inform parties’ questioning.

Ieng Sary defence counsel Michael Karnavas, however, espousing a position shared by the other defence teams, argued that there should be no testimony until a decision on severance was reached, and reiterated his stance that hearings on the whole of Case 002 could begin immediately.

In a set of instructions released by the chamber after adjournment, however, the court announced that it would be hearing Short and Becker as scheduled, though it said it would hold off on other scheduled witnesses.

Karnavas also vowed to contest the introduction of transcripts of witness testimony from Case 001 should S-21 be added to Case 002/01, maintaining that to add the records without recalling the witnesses denied his client the right to confront his accusers.

When Nguyen suggested that stance was obstructionist, Karnavas wondered aloud with no small degree of sarcasm whether the Australian prosecutor was familiar with the role of a defence attorney.

“To suggest that I should come into court on bended knee, with cup in hand, seeking some kind of justice, and accept transcripts from a trial where the lawyer just brought his client in and basically pled him guilty,” he began.  “For the Ieng Sary team to come in and accept that evidence... I should lose my license.”

The court said it will issue a decision on the severance of Case 002 after the fitness of the accused is assessed in late March.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart White at stuart.white@phnompenhpost.com

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