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Duch Trial Could Stall Into 2009: Monitor

The first trial ever of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, for jailed prison chief Duch, could be delayed to the beginning of next year, an independent monitor said Monday.

Long Panhavuth, an official with the Open Society Justice Initiative, which monitors the tribunal, said official predictions that Duch’s trial could come as early as October or November may be premature.

Duch, 65, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as the director of Tuol Sleng, a Phnom Penh detention center where at least 12,000 Cambodians were tortured and later executed under the regime.

An indictment against him issued by investigating judges of the tribunal has been appealed by prosecutors, delaying further the first trial of the tribunal, which was beset with delays at its inception and has been plagued by funding problems amid allegations of corruption.

“I think there might be another possibility” for his trial date, Long Panhavuth said, adding that a delay until December, when the Pre-Trial Chamber is scheduled to rule on the prosecutor appeal, would be complicated by the onset of the Western holiday seasons of Christmas and New Year’s.

The delays could mean Duch won’t be tried until the first quarter of 2009, he said.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the courts were aiming to try Duch by the end of the year, but “everyone is equal, so everyone of [five detained regime leaders] can appeal or take legal action.”

“We can’t prevent them,” he said.