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Duch Team at Odds in Final Remarks

The French defense attorney for Kaing Kek Iev told Khmer Rouge tribunal judges Thursday he was in disagreement with his Cambodian colleague over whether the court should drop two atrocity crimes charges against the former prison chief know better as Duch.

Instead, Francois Roux, in his final arguments to the UN-backed court, said he would rather see a prison sentence shortened for Duch, who is accused of killing more than 12,000 people as administrator for one of the Khmer Rouge’s most notorious prisons, Tuol Sleng.

International prosecutors have called for at least 40 years of imprisonment for war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder and torture.

Roux’s statement Thursday was at odds with arguments from Duch’s Cambodian attorney, Kar Savuth, who said Wednesday the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his client should be dropped.

Kar Savuth told the court the prison chief, now 67, had been trapped under a revolutionary hierarchy led by Pol Pot, security chief Son Sen and Nuon Chea. (Nuon Chea, the regime’s chief ideologue, is currently awaiting his own trial at the UN-backed court, along with three other senior leaders of the regime, under whom as many as 2 million Cambodians died in less than four years.)

“Duch did not commit crimes against humanity or war crimes,” Kar Savuth told the court. “Please, Trial Chamber, drop these charges.”

There were 195 other prison chiefs like Duch, he said.

“The disaster within and without [the Khmer Rouge cadre] was really the sole responsibility of the Cambodian communist party,” Duch told the court in his own concluding remarks. “I promise in any case in the future, I will do everything for the need of my people. Please the court, take this under consideration and decide on this matter.”

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have urged the court to hand down heavy punishment, due to the scale of the crimes.

“The crime for which he is being sentenced is a grave crime, which was against numerous people,” Cambodian prosecutor Chea Leang told the court Tuesday. “It is simply understood that nothing can replace the sentencing of him for a very long time in jail.”

Tuol Sleng prison, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, was the most serious of all the regime’s detention centers, and as its head, Duch intentionally tortured prisoners and sentenced them to inhumane deaths, she said.

The week brought to a close the first-ever trial for the hybrid tribunal, which has struggled since its inception in 2006 and is now facing a second, more complicated trial, for Noun Chea and other leaders.

The Trial Chamber will now begin consideration of a verdict in Duch’s case, though that decision is not expected until early 2010.