The intentions of former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan - both past and present - were a primary focus of the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, with Samphan himself speaking to urge his release on bail.
Samphan and his defence team stressed the octogenarian would strictly abide by the stipulations made in his bail request filed at the beginning of the month, including that he live in a family residence known to the court and not speak to media or witnesses.
Standing, Samphan said: “I want to assure the court that I will be present in all proceedings until the trial is conclu-ded,” adding that he could ride to court by motorcycle.
Failing to release Samphan on bail would violate his rights, defence counsel Arthur Vercken said, given that it was unlikely either Samphan’s life or the trial would end in the near future, and “we have no visibility on when Khieu Samphan will be tried”.
Vercken noted that despite the Supreme Court Chamber’s order in February that the Trial Chamber provide a “fully reasoned” reconsideration of its decision to sever the trial into several mini-trials, the court had not clarified its plans for the mini-trials.
Samphan had been detained for five years and, given financial difficulties, health problems and the interpreters’ strike, “You cannot say everything is moving along smoothly,” Vercken said.
Prosecutor Tarik Abdulhak, however, said Samphan’s continued detention was necess-ary to ensure he did not try to influence witnesses, as the prosecution argued he had attempted to do in 2009, when his wife visited two witnesses in Battambang.
Abdulhak said Samphan’s proposal to travel between home and the hearings posed an “unreasonable risk” that he would be attacked by vengeful victims, as he was 1991.
Vercken, however, questioned whether Cambodians cared about Samphan’s status, citing a 2010 study that found even “after a whole campaign” to educate the populace about the trial, only 11 per cent of Cambodians could name the accused.
The judges said they would announce a decision about Samphan’s bail “in due course.”
In the morning session, priest and author Francois Ponchaud testified that leaders like Samphan “had good intentions in the beginning”, and many of the worst atrocities were the decis-ions of low-level cadres.