The former chief of Tuol Sleng prison says he doubts that testimony from a Khmer Rouge tribunal civil party is true.
AWITNESS at the Khmer Rouge tribunal told the court Monday how he had been spared from execution at Tuol Sleng prison when he was transferred to another detention centre.
But the prison's former chief, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, challenged the veracity of the witness's story, saying the person the witness was claiming to be was in fact dead.
Ly Hor, a 57-year-old civil party, was called upon by his lawyers to testify about his time at Tuol Sleng. But the accused said Ly Hor was not the person he claimed to be.
"According to these documents, Comrade Hor already died," Duch said as he held up documents that he claimed included a "smash list" of exexecuted Tuol Sleng prisoners compiled by the prosecution.
Ly Hor told judges that he registered with the tribunal after a biography found at Tuol Sleng with the name "Ear Hor" was shown to him by a representative of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) earlier this year. When asked on Monday if it was his biography, he replied that it was.
The biography referenced a monthlong stay at Tuol Sleng, or S-21, before a stint at Prey Sar prison, or S-24.
When Ly Hor had trouble recalling details of his time at Tuol Sleng, judges questioned whether the documents proved he was a prisoner at the compound or whether they were merely found at the prison.
Civil party lawyer Alain Werner replied it was their "understanding" that the documents had indeed come from Tuol Sleng, adding that they were provided by DC-Cam.
"That's what we've been told at the outset, and we've worked on this assumption," he said, though he later said that "nothing [in the documents] attests that he was at S-21".
The head of DC-Cam's Victims Participation Project told the Post Monday that a "confession" with Ly Hor's name on it was found at S-21, which stated that he had been released.
"We asked him to confirm this and he said yes, he had been detained at S-21," Terith Chy said.
He added that Duch's comments were likely part of a defence tactic to deny that he had the authority to release people.
Though Ly Hor said on Monday that he had trouble remembering the year he was transferred to S-21, he said guards had told him the prison was called Tuol Sleng.
"It has been so long already, that is why I've been confused at some points," he said.
His confusion prompted Judge Sylvia Cartwright to warn the witness's civil party lawyers to better prepare their clients before they brought them to court.
Challenge from the defence
Defence lawyers said the fact that the witness could not recall being photographed or given an ID number at the prison indicated that it was unlikely he was detained there.
They asked him why he had applied for civil party status.
"I suffered during the regime, and after I heard there was going to be a trial for Duch, I was determined to participate," Ly Hor replied.