Khmer Rouge leader slams `fairytale` accusations
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Last Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 15:33
Phnom Penh: A top Khmer Rouge leader accused the prosecution at his historic war crimes trial on Wednesday of telling "fairytales", insisting that most Cambodian people had supported the brutal regime.

Ex-head of state Khieu Samphan is on trial along with two other defendants on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over the deaths of up to two million people during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 reign of terror.

Prosecutors opening the long-awaited trial this week have told the packed courtroom of the horrors inflicted in the "Killing Fields" era, describing the defendants as "common murderers of an entire generation of Cambodians".

Such accusations were rebuffed by 80-year-old Khieu Samphan as he took the stand at the UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh.

"You seem to want everybody to listen to your fairytales," he said, during his hour-long statement. "I have the feeling that you really want my head on the block."

Khieu Samphan, "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary all deny the charges against them relating to the hardline communist regime.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied cities, abolished money and religion and wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

Pol Pot's right-hand man Nuon Chea on Tuesday also rejected the allegations against him, claiming he had served "the nation and the people" by defending Cambodia from Vietnamese aggressors.

In a similar vein, Khieu Samphan said he was acting to "defend my country" after a 1970 coup that installed a US-friendly government led by Lon Nol.

"Regardless of whether you like or dislike it, the majority of Cambodian people gave their support to us for our opposition to the Lon Nol regime," he said.

The prosecution has said the defendants knew about and participated in crimes such as forced evacuations, enslavement at labour sites, the "smashing" of enemies and the genocide of Cham Muslims and the Vietnamese.

But Khieu Samphan, the only accused to directly respond to some of the examples of human suffering mentioned by prosecutors, denied he knew what was going on at the time.

"Do you really think... that when I visited these worksites alone or accompanied by the king (Norodom Sihanouk), workers were being murdered in front of us with holes or bullets in the back of their necks?"


First Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 15:33

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