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Khmer Rouge Defense Teams Warned Against Continuing Boycott

Khieu Samphan, second from right, former Khmer Rouge head of state, and Noun Chea, left, who was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, is seen on a screen at the court's press center of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, file photo.

Officials at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal told defense lawyers on Tuesday they could be “replaced” if they continue a boycott of proceedings.

The defense teams for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan walked out of hearings last week and say they will not return until the court hears a number of their complaints, including one of bias among its judges.

In a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, prosecutors told defense they could be removed if they continue that course, Son Arun, a defense lawyer, told VOA Khmer.

The tribunal is in the midst of starting the second and final phase of a trial of Nuon Chea, the regime’s chief ideologue, and Khieu Samphan, its nominal head of state.

Both men were convicted of atrocity crimes earlier this year and face life sentences for acts committed by cadre during the forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975.

The next phase of trial will be broader in scope and tackle atrocities across the country, including alleged genocide of Cham Muslims and ethnic Vietnamese, as well as forced marriage and rape.

It is the second phase of the trial that many observers hope will bring some sense of broader justice to victims of the Khmer Rouge, many of whom have been disappointed by the court’s progress so far; it has only completed the trial of one suspect since its inception in 2006.