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Defense Seeks Release of Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan

Former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan, left, and Nuon Chea, right, look on during the funeral for Khieu Ponnary, the first wife of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, in 2003.

Defense lawyers for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have launched separate complaints to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, claiming their clients have been detained beyond legal limitations as they await trial.

The defense teams say continued detention of the two senior Khmer Rouge leaders is a breach of the internal rules of the UN-backed court.

Son Arun, a defense lawyer for Nuon Chea, the regime’s chief ideologue and “Brother No. 2,” said Internal Rule No. 68 requires a hearing within four months of the closing order by investigating judges.

That date, Jan. 15 in both cases, has passed, he said, making Nuon Chea’s continued detention “an abuse of him by the law.”

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are to stand trial along with Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister of the regime, and Ieng Thirith, his wife, former social affairs minister. They are charged with atrocity crimes, including genocide, with a trial expected later this year.

Sar Savann, defense lawyer for Khieu Samphan, the nominal head of the regime, said any detention beyond Jan. 15 is unlawful. Khieu Samphan should immediately be released, he said.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath confirmed that the court had received the complaints and would make a legal decision accordingly. Experts say the internal rules on the matter have some room for interpretation.