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No Decision on Release, as Duch Hearing Closes

The Khmer Rouge tribunal wrapped up two days of public hearings on whether torture center head Duch should be released ahead of his atrocity crimes trials next year.

An announcement is expected in coming days, following the first public hearing of a Khmer Rouge leader since the tribunal's inception.

Prosecutors argued Duch was a flight risk, and that his release could jeopardize his own safety and lead to the destruction evidence. Defense argued that Duch was held illegally for eight years with trial by the military courts.

"As the last word, what request do you have for the Pre-Trial Chamber?" Judge Prak Kimsan asked Duch at the hearing.

"My only last request is for the judges to grant me a temporary release," said Duch, who oversaw S-21, the prison and torture center also known as Tuol Sleng.

An estimated 16,000 Cambodians were interred at Tuol Sleng, and most of them allegedly were tortured and executed and buried in mass graves outside the capital.

Duch's public hearing was a test run for trials to come, broadcast on local television and inundated with journalists and observers. For many, it provided the first glimpse of a man accused of acts of atrocity under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Tribunal officials hope the process alone will help Cambodians reconcile with their past.

"Finally, people in Cambodia can see that justice is being done," said Robert Petit, the UN-appointed co-prosecutor for the tribunal courts.