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First Khmer Rouge Trial Inches Nearer

Khmer Rouge tribunal officials announced Thursday they would determine a trial date for jailed prison chief Duch in January, setting the firmest date yet for the first trial of five jailed leaders.

In a statement Thursday, tribunal officials said the trial date for Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, will be decided after the Pre-Trial Chamber rules on an indictment appeal by prosecutors on Dec. 5.

Prosecutors appealed a ruling by investigating judges in August, claiming the indictment had not encompassed the full extent of his alleged crimes. A ruling on that appeal will move a trial forward, though no date is certain.

“We cannot expect any date before the Pre-Trial Chamber decides on the appeal,” tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.

However, Long Panhavuth, a program officer for court monitor for the Open Society for Justice Initiative, said he expected a trial for Duch would not start until at least February 2009.

Duch, 65, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, has been detained since May 1999. Four other Khmer Rouge leaders were arrested in 2007.

“Successfully conducting trials of this significance is a complex process, and the Court recognizes that it can be frustrating for the millions who have been waiting for decades to see justice done,” the tribunal said in its statement Thursday. “Nevertheless, each step of the legal process must be followed carefully and conducted in line with the highest standards of justice. This will also ensure the most enduring legacy for the Cambodian Courts.”

The announcement came as three senior-most detained leaders were sent to the hospital for check-ups. Nuon Chea, 82, Khieu Samphan, 76, and Ieng Sary, 82, each were taken to Calmette Hospital for routine visits this week.