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Nuon Chea Hospitalized, Halting Tribunal Hearings

Khmer Rouge "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea attends a public hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - Jailed Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea has been hospitalized with acute bronchitis, his attorney said Monday.

A tribunal spokesman confirmed the hospitalization, renewing fears that the judicial process of the UN-backed court may never be completed for the three aging leaders of the regime currently on trial for atrocity crimes.

Noun Chea, the regime’s chief ideologue, is on trial for crimes including genocide alongside Khieu Samphan, the regime’s nominal head of state, and Ieng Sary, its foreign minister. His hospitalization could slow down hearings, because he cannot testify, his lawyer, Son Arun, said.

Nuon Chea collapsed in his cell at the tribunal detention center outside Phnom Penh on Sunday, Son Arun said.

He is being treated for acute bronchitis at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, where he was admitted Sunday afternoon, said Neth Pheaktra, a spokesman for the court.

A hearing Monday morning was postponed, and Son Arun said Nuon Chea has requested that he be present at hearings.

His illness follows the extended hospital stay of Ieng Sary last year, adding to fears of Khmer Rouge survivors and court monitors that a trial for the three men will not be completed in time, as they grow increasingly infirm.

The court has already released one leader, former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, to house arrest. And it is scheduled to hold hearings in March on whether Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary are healthy enough to participate in their trial.