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Tuol Sleng Conceived by Pol Pot: Duch

Jailed Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch told tribunal judges Wednesday that Pol Pot had created the concept for the Phnom Penh prison that would become the regime’s most infamous killing machine.

Duch, who is on trial for his role as chief of the prison, Tuol Sleng, known the Khmer Rouge as S-21, said Pol Pot had put him in charge of administration, but that the regime’s chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, was the supervisor.

Nuon Chea, top lieutenant to Pol Pot, is also in tribunal detention and awaiting trial, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Duch’s testimony shed official light on the hierarchy of the Khmer Rouge and the prison, outlining how Pol Pot had conceived of the facility, which became the regime’s main torture center, and had put in charge Nuon Chea and another Khmer Rouge leader, Son Sen, who led the secret police.

Son Sen could make decisions, Nuon Chea was supervisor, and Duch was in charge of administering the facility, he said.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder, for administering Tuol Sleng, as well as Prey Sar prison and the execution site of Choeung Ek, on the outskirts of the capital.

Prosecutors say more than 12,000 Cambodians were tortured and sent to the deaths at Tuol Sleng, while researchers estimate as many as 16,000 prisoners went through.

Duch has admitted to his role in the killings. However, he has said he did not do any himself, and he has sought during his trial, which began March 30, to demonstrate he was a loyal revolutionary following orders.

Wednesday marked the beginning of the trial’s look at Tuol Sleng itself; judges had previously examined Duch’s role as administrator of a jungle prison in Kampong Speu province ahead of the Khmer Rouge’s rise to power.