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Tribunal Hearings To Continue Despite Hospitalizations

Former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan, left, and Nuon Chea, right, look on during the funeral for Khieu Ponnary, the first wife of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, in 2003.
PHNOM PENH - Tribunal officials say they will proceed with hearings of Khmer Rouge leaders next week without the participation of two men who remain in the hospital.

Former ideologue Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan remain at the Khmer-Soviet hospital in Phnom Penh, and neither will be present at hearings covering documents next week, tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra told VOA Khmer Friday.

Nuon Chea, 86, has acute bronchitis; Khieu Samphan, 81, has intestinal problems, according to court officials.

Hearings were suspended this week due to the hospitalizations. Hearings concerning documents in Case 002—in which Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and former foreign minister Ieng Sary are accused of atrocity crimes, including genocide—will resume next week, Neth Pheaktra said.

Hearings will continue for two days, after which it is hoped Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan can participate, he said. If not, more hearings concerning documents, rather than witness and civil party testimony, will continue, he said.

Lawyers for both hospitalized suspects say their conditions are improving, but they do not know when they will be released from the hospital and returned to the tribunal detention facility outside Phnom Penh.

In the coming months, the tribunal expects to hear testimony from a wide range of witnesses, including former Khmer Rouge commander Chhouk Rin, who himself is in prison in connection with the murder of three Western backpackers in 2004; Francois Pontchaud, a French Catholic priest who was in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge came to power; Elizabeth Becker, an award-winning journalist who covered the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia; and Stephen Heder, a noted Khmer Rouge scholar.