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Tribunal Begins Public Distribution of Duch Verdict

The Khmer Rouge tribunal began distributing official copies of the judgment for torture chief Kaing Kek Iev on Thursday, as several survivors of his notorious Tuol Sleng prison said they hoped the souls of his victims would accept the court's verdict.

The book was handed out at Tuol Sleng, which is now a museum, the mass grave site of Choeung Ek, and in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar commune.

“I raise up this verdict for the souls of those who died here to accept it, and to see that the perpetrator is condemned in history to 35 years in prison,” Van Nath, a 64-year-old survivor of the prison said at the ceremony.

The UN-backed court expects to distribute around 27,000 copies of the full verdict around the country, for use in education facilities and libraries.

The verdict, which found Duch, as he is commonly known, guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, commuted a 35-year term to 19 years in prison, following leniency and time served.

Some victims have said the sentence was too light for Duch's responsibility in the torture and execution of more than 12,000 people. But on Thursday, the call was for acceptance.

“My wife was killed at Choeung Ek lake,” said Bou Meng, another survivor of the prison. “I pray to the souls of my wife, my children and the Cambodian people to accept [the verdict] peacefully.”

Thursday's distribution was part of an outreach effort from the tribunal.

The distribution of the judgement will begin a process “to make sure that normal Cambodian people can read the verdict and get a copy of the verdict if they want to,” tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said.

Survivors like Van Nath and Bou Meng were the first to receive copies, he said.

“We hope that they will use the book to teach their children,” Reach Sambath, a spokesman for the Cambodian side of the hybrid court, said.

A copy will be kept as a “historical document” at Tuol Sleng, the museum's director, Keso Ponnaker, said.