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Defense Wants Half-Day Hearings for Ill Ieng Sary

Ieng Sary, center, former Khmer Rouge's foreign affair minister, sits in a court dock of the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal, during a hearing Friday, April 30, 2010, in Phnom Penh.

The defense team for jailed Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary has requested half-day hearings at the UN-backed tribunal when trials begin, due to his poor health.

The tribunal is moving toward trials of Ieng Sary and three other leaders later this year, but his defense lawyers say he is too ill to attend full days of hearings.

“We’ve noticed that he cannot sit for a whole day, so if the court can set a hearing schedule for half days, it would be suitable,” Ang Udom, one of the defense attorneys, said.

Defense made the request to the Trial Chamber on Wednesday, saying Ieng Sary had back problems and “urological issues which require him to make frequent trips to the toilet.”

“He also has trouble maintaining his energy and concentrating for extended periods of time,” the defense wrote.

In addition to shorter hearings “to accommodate Mr. Ieng Sary’s fundamental right to be present at trial,” the defense team also requested a 15-minute break each session.

“We want him to join the hearing and to allow him to join the trial,” they wrote.

Ieng Sary, who is 85, was the former foreign minister of the Khmer Rouge. He faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide and will be tried alongside Nuon Chea, the chief ideologue of the regime, Khieu Samphan, its nominal head, and Ieng Thirith, former social affairs minister.

Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said the Trial Chamber will consider the request as planning for the trial moves ahead.