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Nuon Paet awaits result of appeal against life term

Nuon Paet awaits result of appeal against life term

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

camp.

"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.

Three

witnesses gave evidence for Paet, saying he was not the military leader at Phnom

Voar, only in charge of administration and political affairs.

Two

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.

At

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.

On

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

argued.

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

groups.

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.

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