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Second Khmer Rouge Leader Leaves Detention for Hospital

In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, a former head of state for the Khmer Rouge, gestures as testimony is given during his trial at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, March 20, 2012. The tribunal on Tuesday continued its trial against surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime, blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s.
PHNOM PENH - Jailed Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan was sent to the hospital Wednesday, making him the second former regime leader currently on trial hospitalized this week.

He joins the regime’s chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh. Both hospitalizations follow a lengthy stay by a third regime leader, Ieng Sary, last year.

All three are on trial together for atrocity crimes, including genocide, committed by the Khmer Rouge under their leadership. Khmer Rouge survivors and families of victims say they fear the three will grow too old or infirm to see their cases brought to closure.

Neak Pheaktra, a spokesman for the UN-backed tribunal, said Khieu Samphan, 81, was “weak and tired.”

“Doctors are treating him, and we don’t know the diagnosis yet,” he said.

Kong Sam On, a lawyer for Khieu Samphan, told VOA Khmer the former nominal head of the regime was “short of breath.”

Nuon Chea, 86, who was admitted on Sunday, remains in the same hospital with acute bronchitis.

The tribunal has suspended hearings for the week, and it remains unclear whether any will be held next week. In March, the court plans to hear arguments over the fitness of Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary to stand trial.

The hospitalization of Khieu Samphan raises more questions about the proceedings.

Long Panhavuth, a court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative in Cambodia, said the court should now consider separating the cases of the three men “in order to avoid a deadlock.”