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Ieng Thirith Will Not Yet Be Released: Tribunal

Former Khmer Rouge social affairs minister Ieng Thirith sits at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, file photo.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal said Tuesday it would not grant immediate release to jailed regime leader Ieng Thirith, who had been found mentally unfit to stand trial.

In a decision by the tribunal’s Supreme Court Chamber, an appeal by prosecutors to hold Ieng Thirith was granted.

“The Supreme Court Chamber found that the Trial Chamber must exhaust all available measures potentially capable of helping [Ieng Thirith] to become fit to stand trial,” the UN-backed court said in a statement.

The decision was made “in the light of the possibility, albeit slight, of a meaningful improvement in the mental health of the Accused.”

Medical experts told the court earlier this year Ieng Thirith’s mental state had deteriorated under Alzheimer’s disease and she could no longer remember her time as the regime’s social affairs minister.

“The Supreme Court Chamber concluded that the original ground for keeping the Accused in provisional detention, namely to ensure her presence during the proceedings, remains valid and relevant,” the court said.

The judges have requested additional treatment for Ieng Thirith “which may help improve her mental health to such extent that she becomes fit to stand trial,” the court said. “Such treatment is to be carried out in a hospital or other appropriate facility in Cambodia.”

Ieng Thirith would then be re-evaluated within six months to determine whether she is fit to stand trial, the court said. She will remain in detention at the tribunal until further arrangements for her treatment can be made.

The decision was welcomed by victims of the regime.

Chhum Mey, 79, who survived the Khmer Rouge torture center at Tuol Sleng, said she should be held by the court because she has been accused of mass killings.

“If the court releases Ieng Thirith, I will stand in front of the convoy bringing her out of detention,” said Chea Por Houy, 73, another survivor of the regime. “I’ll let the cars hit me, because I’m not afraid to die.”