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Tribunal Considers Reassigning Defense for Khieu Samphan

In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, left, former Khmer Rouge head of state, and Nuon Chea, right, who was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, sit in the court hall before they made closing statements at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, file photo.

The Trial Chamber of the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal has warned it will replace the defense team of defendant Khieu Samphan if lawyers do not cooperate with proceedings.

The second and final phase of the trial against Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, the only two remaining in custody who have not completed trials, are widely viewed as the court’s most important case. But their trial has been delayed by defense teams that refuse to take part in hearings, claiming the court has not decided on key complaints and appeals.

Nil Nonn, head judge of the Trial Chamber, said Monday that the court is considering appointing new council for Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge’s nominal head of state.

Such a decision, which does not need the agreement of the accused, would be made in the interest of a fair and speedy trial, he said.

Nil Nonn ordered Khieu Samphan to provide a response by Tuesday afternoon as to whether he will continue to instruct his current counsel to boycott hearings.

Lawyer for Nuon Chea, meanwhile, were present for proceedings Monday, in an apparent end to their own boycott.