Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Duch to address court


PHNOM PENH- THE Khmer Rouge prison chief was to give his concluding remarks on Wednesday in final arguments at Cambodia's war crimes court, nearing justice for the 'Killing Fields' atrocities three decades ago.

Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - has repeatedly used his trial to apologise for his role in the horrors of the late 1970s hardline communist regime, which killed up to two million people. 'Duch is expected to speak and what we're told is he's expected to speak one or two hours,' said court spokesman Lars Olsen.

The prosecution, which will make its own final remarks on Wednesday before Duch addresses the court, has indicated it will call on judges to hand him a lengthy sentence.

For Cambodians, the controversial tribunal, established in 2006 after nearly a decade of negotiations between Cambodia and the United Nations, is the last chance to find justice for the Khmer Rouge's crimes during its 1975-1979 rule.

Since his trial began in February, Duch, 67, has publicly asked for forgiveness for overseeing the murders of around 15,000 men, women and children at Tuol Sleng prison, built in a former high school. He is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and premeditated murder, and faces a maximum term of life in prison by the tribunal, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Duch is expected to apologise again Wednesday as his defence bids to lessen his sentence, however prosecution and civil party lawyers have this week rejected his accounts of the past and called for a harsher decision. After final arguments conclude this week, the verdict is expected early next year. -- AFP

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