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Ieng Sary refused release, amnesty still in question

Ieng Sary refused release, amnesty still in question

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3-story-1.jpg

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister will remain behind bars, but the issue of 'double jeopardy' remains unresolved

Photo by: KhEM SOVANNARA

Ieng Sary (left) stands in a courtroom at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Friday.

KHMER Rouge tribunal judges Friday refused to release ailing regime leader Ieng Sary from pre-trial detention, but have not made a ruling on the issue of double jeopardy ahead of the former foreign minister's  likely trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Lawyers for the 82-year-old claimed in July that their client was "too ill to stand" and requested hospitalisation as an alternative form of detention.

They also argued that a 12-year-old royal pardon and amnesty from prosecution under the Kingdom's law banning the Khmer Rouge exempts him from prosecution at the UN-backed genocide court.

Judge Prak Kimsan said Friday that there was "no evidence for an immediate need for long-term hospitalisation."

But he added that information regarding the amnesty was  "too vague" to allow for a decision on whether Ieng Sary was being prosecuted for the same crimes covered in the 1979 trial.

"Considering these conclusions, the pretrial chamber will not address further the submissions of the parties concerning the validity of the royal decree," he said.

Yet Chakrya, deputy co-prosecutor, confirmed that the issue of ne bis in idem - the civil law equivalent of double jeopardy -  was not yet resolved and would continue into the investigation.

"It's too early to say what he'll be on trial for," he told reporters after the hearing.

But despite the issue of amnesty  remaining  unanswered, he said that the pre-trial chamber decision had "opened the door to [Ieng Sary's] prosecution and trial".

Ieng Sary was found guilty in absentia of genocide and crimes against humanity by a Vietnamese-backed tribunal in 1979 and sentenced to death.

In 1996 he was pardoned by then-king Norodom Sihanouk in exchange for the defection of his troops. The validity of the pardon has been an ongoing debate, particularly during his bail hearing in June this year, with the defense arguing that their client should be commended for brokering peace between the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian government. 

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