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Nuon Chea Seeks Foreign Lawyer to Join Defense

Detained Khmer Rouge commander Nuon Chea has begun seeking in earnest a foreign lawyer to join his defense against charges of atrocity crimes.

He is reviewing the credentials of three or four out of 10 applicants so far, Nuon Chea's Cambodian attorney, Son Arun, told VOA Khmer Tuesday.

"I will call to interview those lawyers in a few days to review their qualifications and experience in international crimes," he said.

Nuon Chea had wanted a Thai lawyer, but none have applied, Son Arun said. Applicants had so far come from the US, UK, France and the Netherlands, he said.

The Khmer Rouge courts allow for Cambodian and foreign defense, adhering to principles outlined during the UN-sponsored tribunal's inception.

"The process has begun," Rupert Skilbeck, head of the tribunal defense section, told VOA Khmer.

Nuon Chea could have a foreign "co-lawyer" within a week, Skilbeck said.

Nuon Chea told reporters before his arrest last week that he was considering defending himself against the courts, but soon decided to take on a Cambodian lawyer once he was detained and charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

A second Khmer Rouge defendant, Kaing Khek Iev, better known as Duch, has already retained a foreign lawyer, French attorney Francois Roux, who represented US terror convict Zacarias Moussaoui and defendants at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Duch's trial could start as early as February 2008.

Khieu Samphan, the nominal head of the regime, who is widely expected to face similar charges, has already retained controversial French attorney Jacques Verges, who has extensive war crimes trial experience.