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Khieu Samphan Looking to 'Clear Himself' Ahead of Potential Trial, Groups Say

Former head of state for the Khmer Rouge Khieu Samphan likely granted a long interview last week in order to clear his name publicly ahead of a potential trial, rights workers said Tuesday.

The reclusive Khieu Samphan spoke at length to VOA Khmer in a rare interview Oct. 11, another indicator that he sees himself as a likely candidate for indictment, they said.

He has already hired a firebrand French attorney, Jacques Verges, who defended in court Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka Carlos the Jackal, an infamous leftists terrorist.

Center for Social Development Executive Director Seng Theary said Khieu Samphan likely spoke to mask his faults as head of state for the Khmer Rouge.

"I think it is his strategy. His character is that [of the one] who wants to clear himself of the crimes that occurred in the Khmer Rouge regime," she said. "So he wants to interpret [his acts] for the people."

The aging Khmer Rouge leader was seeking sympathy from Cambodians and journalists ahead of a likely arrest by the Khmer Rouge tribunal, rights workers said.

"He wants to defend himself beforehand," said Hisham Mousar, a legal expert for the rights group Adhoc. "His defense is for people to hear about it beforehand. In his strategy, defending himself beforehand is better than the day that will arrive when he will be temporarily detained" by the tribunal courts.