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Bail Hearing Set for Duch

The two-part hearing to decide whether Kaing Khek Iev, alias Duch, will be released from jail ahead of his atrocity crimes trial has been set for mid-November, Khmer Rouge tribunal officials confirmed Wednesday.

The pre-trial chamber of the special courts will decide in two hearings—one on Nov. 15 and the other on Nov. 20—on whether Duch's incarceration since 1999 was unlawful or an abuse of his rights.

Both "parts" of the hearing will be public, but only the second will be "official," said Prak Kimsan, head of the pre-trial chamber of the tribunal courts. For many Cambodians, the public hearings will offer a first glimpse of the first defendant of the tribunal process.

Duch stands accused of crimes against humanity for his role as the supervisor of Phnom Penh's infamous Tuol Sleng torture center, where as many as 16,000 were tortured and executed.

He was held by Cambodia's military courts from 1999 through July this year, when he was moved to the custody of the tribunal courts.

Duch's Cambodian defense attorney, Kar Savuth declined comment Wednesday.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the hearings would give Duch's attorneys the best possible chance to petition for his release ahead of a trial, which has not yet been scheduled but is not expected until at least February 2008.

The Nov. 15 hearing will last "about one hour," Reach Sambath said. "The official hearing on Nov. 20, at 10:00 am, might go on to Nov. 21."

One of the few survivors of Tuol Sleng, painter Van Nath, told VOA Khmer Wednesday he will not attend the hearings, due to poor health. But he said he would regret seeing Duch free ahead of his trial.

"Think about it. He committed many atrocious offenses," Van Nath said. "If the hearing decides to release him, I will be speechless."