NUON Paet will have to wait till October 4 to find out if his September 20
appeal against life imprisonment for partaking in the kidnapping and killing of
three Western backpackers in 1994 has been successful.
"This case is so
complicated and the judge group needs time to discuss it," said the leading
judge, Samreth Sophal.
Paet has always maintained his innocence, saying
he was bypassed by his superiors in their decision to kill Briton Mark Slater,
28, Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, 27, and Australian David Wilson, 29, who had
been taken off a southbound train near Kampot and held hostage in a KR
"After I released some other foreigners and journalists, the
leaders didn't trust me anymore. I wasn't allowed to have any military duties
but was ordered to work in the back," Paet told the appeal court.
witnesses gave evidence for Paet, saying he was not the military leader at Phnom
Voar, only in charge of administration and political affairs.
witnesses also disputed testimonies from the municipal court that indicated that
the order to kill the hostages had gone though Paet.
Instead, one said,
the order, which was telegraphed from Pol Pot, was passed from Paet's superior,
regional commander Sam Bit, to a field commander, Vith Vorn, who then killed the
backpackers. However, another witness claimed that the order was passed directly
on to Vorn's associate, Ouk Bon.
Their testimonies indirectly cleared
Bit, who has also been charged in the case but never arrested, by saying that he
only followed orders from higher up and that he would have been killed if he
hadn't done so. Vorn was later killed under mysterious circumstances.
the beginning of the trial, Paet reiterated his claim that he was being used as
a scapegoat because he had never formally defected to the Government.
July 18, another former KR commander, Chhouk Rin, who has previously admitted
that he was in charge of the train attack, was arrested but was freed at his
court hearing because the judge ruled his actions were covered by an amnesty - a
ruling criticized by a number of legal experts.
Observers and analysts
saw the decision to release Rin as a signal from the Government to the KR
defectors that they had nothing to worry about from an international tribunal
for the leaders.
At the appeal court Paet's lawyer, Dy Borima, was
seconded by Rin's lawyer, Put Theavy. In his closing statement, Theavy argued
that all charges against his client should be dropped because what had taken
place had happened at a time and place of war.
"At that time Cambodia was
still at war. The KR was fighting to gain a better position. The three people
should be considered as prisoners of war, not as hostages," Theavy
Paet was charged with kidnapping, murder, terrorism, robbery,
destruction of public property and illegally forming armed groups. Prosecutor
Nhuong Thol said he was willing to drop the charge of illegally forming armed
The Braquet family's lawyer, Yim Sary, rejected the calls for the
charges to be dropped and argued that the witnesses all put the blame for the
crimes on people who were conveniently dead.
"The dead cannot come to the
court to testify," Sary said.