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Teams to Search for Tuol Sleng Survivors

As a trial for jailed prison chief Duch draws nearer, teams for the Documentation Center of Cambodia will begin searching for some 170 survivors of Tuol Sleng prison.

The center's director, Youk Chhang, said Friday about 177 prisoners were released from Tuol Sleng, which was headed by Duch, between 1975 and 1977.

In finding survivors of the prison, the center hopes to bolster the cases against Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, for civil parties in the case.

The idea for the search stemmed from an indictment of Duch that was issued earlier this month that did not mention the survivors.

"What is the reason that the co-prosecutors did not include this case in the closing order of Duch?" Youk Chhang said. "Then we thought, we will do historical research, and we want to know further why 177 prisoners were released."

According the center, the prisoners were arrested from Kampong Thom, Kandal, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, and other provinces, and then released, between 1975 to 1977.

Some of them were accused of links to the CIA, while others stood accused of loving a forbidden partner. Other charges included attempts to steal the motorcycles of Khmer Rouge cadre and other infractions against the secretive regime.

"In the closing order, co-investigating judges did not mention this, and it seems that in the closing order all people who were detained have been killed," Youk Chhang said. "Indeed, some of them were released."

The center will begin sending teams into the provinces next week in search of the survivors, in hopes of interviewing them and learning why they were released. Documents indicate they were released at the recommendation of other Khmer Rouge cadre.

Co-investigating judge You Bunleng said Friday the center had a right to investigate.

"This is their affair. I cannot give further comment before the plenary trial," he said, adding that investigating judges do not give full details of the csae in their closing orders.

Some documents of the center have already been used by civil party and defense lawyers.

"We think that all the work of NGOs that provides interest in the [tribunal] will provide interest to our citizens," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.

Only 10 Tuol Sleng survivors have so far been discovered, and most of those have already died.