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Khmer Rouge leader halts court cooperation


February 21, 2008

Khmer Rouge leader halts court cooperation

Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan will stop cooperating with the UN-backed court, a local daily quoted the French lawyer defending at Cambodia's genocide tribunal as saying Wednesday.

Khieu Samphan would not speak to court officials until thousands of pages of evidence against him is translated into French, said Jacques Verges, nicknamed “the Devil's advocate" for his defence of one of the world's most notorious criminals.

He told the English-language Cambodia Daily that without a translation of the court documents, which are in English, he would not be able to adequately defend his client.

Verges, a fierce anti-colonialist, reportedly befriended Khieu Samphan and other future Khmer Rouge leaders while at university in Paris in the 1950s. In his long career, he has acted for Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal, reported AFP.

The agency quoted the tribunal co-investigating judge Marcel Lemonde as saying that other suspects detained by the UN-backed court have also invoked their right "to remain silent at every stage of the proceedings." But he said this would not hamper the court's investigation into their alleged crimes.

So far five people have been detained by the tribunal, including former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, the most senior surviving leader of the 1975-79 regime which oversaw one of the worst chapters of the 20th century.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed by the communist Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society in its effort to forge a radical agrarian utopia.

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