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Trial Judges Prepare for Duch Atrocity Case

International jurists for the Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal have joined their Cambodian counterparts in anticipation of the trial of Duch, whose pre-trial preparations will be completed soon, a tribunal spokesman said Wednesday.

The case of the infamous chief of the Tuol Sleng torture center, who is charged crimes against humanity, will be the first tried of five jailed former leaders of the regime. More than 16,000 Cambodians were tortured and sent to the deaths at the center.

His trial is expected to begin in September or October.

Both French and New Zealand trial judges began working with their Cambodian colleagues last week, and the trial chambers have been equipped and prepared, tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.

"The courtroom, the seats for participation of victims, are ready," he said. "And the trial judges have already prepared themselves. The famous judge Sylvia Cartwright, a New Zealand national, arrived this Monday."

Co-investigating judge Marcel Lemonde said the proceedings against Duch were entering the period of closure and would be filed soon to the First Trial Chamber.

A source close to the tribunal said Wednesday the co-investigation judges will likely complete the closing order early this week or late next week, and the First Trial Chamber will hold a meeting to decide the set the date for Duch, around Sept. 15.

"We don't see any obstacles regarding the trial of Duch," Adhoc tribunal monitor Hisham Mousar said.

Duch was held by Cambodian military courts from May 1999 until he was handed to the tribunal last year.

Keat Bophal, head of the tribunal's Victims Unit, said Duch is facing 66 civil complaints.