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Duch's Lawyers Launch First Tribunal Salvo

Lawyers for the notorious prison chief known as Duch have launched the first appeal of the tribunal process, asking that a pre-trial chamber release the suspect ahead of his hearings, the special courts announced Wednesday.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Khek Iev, has been incarcerated since 1999, under the jurisdiction of the military judicial system. He has been held by the tribunal courts since he was indicted by investigating judges in late July.

Duch's lawyers, Kar Savuth and Francois Roux, filed the appeal against his detention Aug. 23, tribunal officials said in a statement. The case was sent to the pre-trial chambers of the tribunal court, "which will deal with the matter expeditiously," the statement said.

Kar Savuth declined comment Wednesday.

"The pre-trial chamber will decide whether [Duch] will continue to be detained," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said. "So we will know in the near future."

The appeal is a test for the UN-supported tribunal, Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, a nonprofit legal group providing legal aid to the poor, said Wednesday.

"I think the lawyers acted in accordance with regulations," he said. "If the lawyers are not active, they cannot make the court show its true nature. So the lawyers have to be active. We are waiting to see what the court decides. In the past, sometimes the [national] courts decided without good reason. Now we can learn what kind of reason the Khmer Rouge tribunal will give."