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Lawyers Urge 'Urgent' Release of Ieng Sary

Jailed Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary appeared for a third day in pre-trial hearings, where the court heard arguments surrounding a royal pardon for a 1979 genocide verdict and death sentence.

Defense lawyers are pushing for Ieng Sary's release on the grounds that he has already been tried for genocide, by a 1979 court set up in the wake of the ouster of the Khmer Rouge by Vietnamese forces. As part of a deal with the government in 1996, then-king Norodom Sihanouk pardoned the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister in return for his defection to the government.

Ieng Sary, who was too weak to finish a hearing on Monday, sat quietly in the court room listening to the arguments.

"The amnesty and the pardon conform with the Cambodian constitution," said Ang Udom, Ieng Sary's Cambodian lawyer. "All the crimes that have been charged against him are under the dimension of this royal [decree]."

"The pre-trial chamber must order the release of Ieng Sary, urgently and without condition," Ang Udom told the court.

The pardon, granted Sept. 14, 1996, banned further accusations of Ieng Sary under an anti-Khmer Rouge law.

Michael Karnavas, co-defense for Ieng Sary, said Wednesday the pardon was approved by the National Assembly and co-prime ministers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen.

The co-prime ministers understood the necessity for amnesty for Ieng Sary, which led to the mass defection of Khmer Rouge troops to the government, Karnavas said.

Ieng Sary was an agent of peace, Karnavas said.

However, prosecutors and civil parties rejected the legitimacy of the pardon.

Co-prosecutor William Smith said Cambodia was a signature country to international genocide mandates.

According to international law, and to obligations of each country member, Cambodia has an obligation to charge against such kind of violation, Smith said.

The royal pardon was only for Ieng Sary's execution, and not to prevent the prosecution of other crimes, Smith said.

Civil parties, which participated in the hearing, explained that the pardon was involved with government policy at the time, and the royal pardon was motivated by peace and reconciliation for the country.