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Tribunal’s Final Verdict in Duch Trial Set for Friday

Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, gestures in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, March 29, 2011.

Kaing Kek Iev, the Khmer Rouge torture chief better known as Comrade Duch, will hear the final decision on his sentencing by tribunal judges on Friday.

Duch, who is 69, was handed a commuted sentence of 19 years at the end of his atrocity crimes trial in 2010, angering many victims of the regime and the few remaining survivors of his Tuol Sleng prison.

At least 12,000 people were tortured and sent to their executions under Duch’s supervision.

“It’s a life sentence if they sentence him to 45 years,” said Chum Mey, who survived the prison and is now the head of a Khmer Rouge victims group. “Let’s sentence him to 45 years. Duch will never live for 100 years.”

Duch’s defense team has said he should be released, because his role in the regime does not fall under the mandate of the UN-backed tribunal.

Friday’s decision will close for good the first case of the tribunal, which has struggled with questions of its legitimacy even as it undertakes its second trial, of three senior leaders.

A growing number of critics of the court, which has cost nearly $200 million, say it is only likely to finish two cases, despite two more before its investigating judges.

Sum Rithy, another Tuol Sleng survivor, said Thursday that Duch’s sentence need not be added to, but it should not have been commuted from the original 35 years handed down by judges.

Anne Heindel, a legal expert for the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Duch’s crimes were only a part of the Khmer Rouge atrocity.

Tribunal spokesman Huy Vannak said Friday’s sentence will mark a historic success for the court.

“At that time, we can say justice has been given to everyone,” he said.