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Nuon Chea’s Defense Finds Grounds To Appeal at Least One Crime Accusation

Thet Sambath, filmmaker of the 'Enemies of the People', talking to former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, file photo.
Thet Sambath, filmmaker of the 'Enemies of the People', talking to former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, file photo.

The defense team for former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea says it has found evidence he was not involved in at least one of the crimes he was found guilty of, and they plan to appeal.

Nuon Chea is on trial alongside Khieu Samphan, another regime leader, for atrocity crimes. Both men were already handed life sentences by the court after the first of two phases in their trial, and the will face more charges as the final phase gets under way later this year.

But defense lawyers for Nuon Chea say he was not involved in the mass killings of some 10,000 people, including soldiers of the Lon Nol regime, at a place called Tuol Porchrey, in Pursat province. This was one of the crimes he was found guilty of in the first phase of the trial.

Documentary filmmaker Thet Sambath, who has interviewed Nuon Chea extensively, says the former leaders were not involved in the mass killings there, according to his research.

Defense attorney Victor Koppe told VOA Khmer that the defense filed a request to the Supreme Court Chamber of the tribunal, presenting evidence based on Thet Sambath’s research and seeking an acquittal for the crimes at Tuol Porchrey.

“We think it was not his responsibility, in the criminal and legal sense, and hopefully the Supreme Court Chamber will follow us on this,” Koppe said.

He blamed the killings there on infighting between Khmer Rouge soldiers and their local leaders, not the orders of Nuon Chea or Khieu Samphan.

Thet Sambath told VOA Khmer he is not certain whether he will be called to testify in a new hearing. “Whatever can find justice, not only for Nuon Chea, but also the victims, I should do,” he said.

His interest, he said, is in ensuring that the truth of the regime be on the public record, and not just for Tuol Porchrey. “There should be justice for all cases and charges,” he said.

“In my view, the court has not been just,” he said. It was limited in scope by an agreement between the Cambodian government and the UN and did not get to the bottom of the regime, he said.

“In the regime there were the killings,” he said. “Pol Pot was not clean at all, but at what level was Pol Pot responsible and what level was another side responsible, especially the opponents of Pol Pot?”

However, Peter Maguire, a legal scholar who has written a book about the Khmer Rouge, says Noun Chea faces a lot of charges and his case is unlikely to be reheard.

“That one massacre was not the only crime that the defendants were accused of,” he said. “The defense lawyers are doing their jobs, but I think for the UN to overreact on this would be a huge mistake.”