The family of Christopher Howes, who was killed with his colleague Houn Hourth, say the slayings were calculated and expect a guilty verdict
PHNOM PENH POST ARCHIVE
Christopher Howes, shown here in a file photo, was killed in 1996. A verdict on the five men who are accused of his murder is expected today.
AVERDICT is expected today in the trial of five former Khmer Rouge cadres accused of the 1996 kidnapping and killing of British deminer Christopher Howes and his Cambodian interpreter Houn Hourth, with Howes' family saying they are convinced of the defendants' guilt.
The ruling will bring to an end one of Cambodia's most anticipated legal proceedings following a decade-long investigation that only resulted in a flurry of arrests last year.
Howes was leading a team of deminers with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) when they were seized by the Khmer Rouge near Siem Reap. He was given the chance to leave in exchange for a ransom, but chose to secure his team's freedom instead.
Howes and Houn Hourth were later driven to the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng. According to testimony from the October 3 trial, Howes was shot in the chest while eating fruit. Few details of Houn Hourth's killing have emerged.
The five suspects, who stood trial earlier this month for premeditated murder and illegal confinement and face life in prison if convicted, have all said they are innocent and fingered other, now deceased, individuals for the crimes.
But Sarah Walker, an assistant to MAG CEO Lou McGrath, who is representing the Howes family, told the Post last week that trial testimony had clearly implicated the suspects, who include Khem Ngun, an RCAF brigadier general and former heir apparent to Khmer Rouge commander Ta Mok.
Clearly guilty, family says
"The information the trial produced showed that all had taken part in the premeditated murder of Christopher," Walker said in an email Thursday.
All had taken part in the premeditated murder of
"Those accused of Christopher's and [Houn Hourth's] murder, while denying points in their original statements, quite clearly showed their involvement ... in the preparation for his body to be burnt prior to them killing him," she said.
"The accused [pleaded] they had no choice but to follow orders, otherwise they would be killed themselves, [which] only indicates their guilt," she said. "To accept this would be to accept that those who undertake genocide on the orders of others, fearing they themselves will be killed, [absolved] them of murder."
Walker said the Howes family feared that Phnom Penh Municipal Court would be too lenient on Khem Ngun over his perceived ill health.
"The key concern is that someone like Khem Ngun will play on his state of health and will try to receive some sort of lenient consideration from the court," she said.
"This would be totally unacceptable and would certainly not serve justice for Christopher and Hourth."