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Khmer Rouge Leaders Face Court Together, Briefly

Noun Chea, former deputy secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, adjusts his sunglasses during a joint hearing with other top Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan, its head of state, and Ieng Thirith, former social affairs minister, at the outside th

Three aging Khmer Rouge leaders appeared together at the UN-backed tribunal for the first time on Thursday, if only briefly, as the court considered their motions to be released ahead of a trial expected later this year.

Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith have sought release ahead of their atrocity crimes trial on grounds they have been detained beyond a time limit established by the court.

Jasper Pauw, a defense lawyer for Nuon Chea, the regime’s chief ideologue, said it would be unlawful to detain his client longer under tribunal rules, which stipulate a four-month window from the time investigating judges issue their closing order—Sept. 15, 2010, in this case.

The three were only in the hearing together briefly. Ieng Thirith, 78, former social affairs minister for the regime, left shortly after the hearing began. No reason was given, but a defense attorney said last weak she did not want to face Nuon Chea.

Nuon Chea, who is 85, wore dark sunglasses in the tribunal chamber, but he staid for less than an hour. His lawyer later explained he left because of high blood pressure.

That left Khieu Samphan, 79, the nominal head of the regime, who remained for the entirety of Monday’s hearing.

“I have only one request,” he told the tribunal judges. “That [the court] apply the law.”

Tribunal prosecutors Andrew Carley and Chea Leang urged the judges to keep the defendants in provisional detention to ensure the safety of witnesses and general social security.

The Trial Chamber has one month to decide on their detention.