Khmer Rouge prison chief sacks his international lawyer
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Last Updated: Friday, July 09, 2010, 22:12
Phnom Penh: Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch has sacked his international lawyer just weeks before the verdict in his war crimes trial, Cambodia's UN-backed court said on Friday, after a rift emerged in his defence.

Duch, who cited "loss of confidence" in his request to withdraw Francois Roux as his defence lawyer, unexpectedly asked judges to acquit and release him on the final day of arguments in his trial in November.

Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, had previously said he took responsibility for overseeing the murders of around 15,000 men, women and children at the notorious S-21 or Tuol Sleng prison and begged for forgiveness.

At his verdict on July 26, Duch will continue to be represented by his Cambodian co-lawyer, Kar Savuth. Both the Cambodian lawyer and Roux refused to comment on the sacking.

Kar Savuth in November argued that Duch wanted to be acquitted on the grounds that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, while co-lawyer Roux had argued for leniency based on his contrition.

During most of the trial, Duch's defence team focused on getting a lighter sentence, by downplaying his position within the regime and by highlighting his remorse, his time already served and his cooperation with the court.

But prosecutors said the 67-year-old's sudden acquittal demand raised doubts about his admissions of responsibility and his pleas for forgiveness, while Roux said in November the change in plea "was a complete, bad surprise".

Roux told AFP at the time he believed the U-turn was linked to Cambodian political interference in the trial, noting that Prime Minister Hun Sen had previously said that he hoped the tribunal would fail.

"This (Duch's appeal for release) calls into question Duch's plea of culpability, but also the competence of the court," Roux said in November.

The court, set up in 2006 as a final chance to find justice for victims of the blood-soaked regime, had already been mired in controversy over alleged political interference and allegations about kickbacks in return for jobs.


First Published: Friday, July 09, 2010, 22:12

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