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No Life Sentence Possible in Duch Verdict: Officials

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who ran the notorious Toul Sleng, a top secret detention center for the worst "enemies" of the state, appears on a television screen of the press center of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, 2010.

The Supreme Court Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal will hold the final hearing in the case of torture chief Duch next week, but officials said Friday no one should expect to see a life sentence for the defendant.

Many victims of the regime and participants in the case were disappointed when Duch was handed a commuted sentence of 19 years last year. But tribunal officials told reporters Friday that even if the Supreme Court Chamber finds in favor of an appeal from the prosecution, the maximum sentence Duch will receive is 45 years.

The three-day hearing is scheduled to begin Monday and last for three days. “It will be the last sentencing for Duch,” tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said Friday. “He cannot appeal any more.”

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, was found guilty by the Trial Chamber of atrocity crimes that included crimes against humanity, in the first-ever trial for the UN-backed court.

The Supreme Court Chamber will have to decide if the commuted sentence handed down from the Trial Chamber is acceptable, or whether he should be let out sooner or serve a sentence up to 45 years.

The chamber will also have to decide on an appeal from the defense that questions the legality of Duch’s trial under the court, which is tasked with trying the senior-most leaders of the regime.

“This is not a hearing about how people were tortured, how many people were killed and so on,” tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said Friday. “It’s a hearing about legal arguments, such as, was Duch a senior leader or most responsible within the mandate of the court.