Former Khmer Rouge commander Chhouk Rin has appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn his conviction and life sentence for the 1994 train attack in which three Western backpackers were kidnapped and murdered.
Puth Theavy, Chhouk Rin’s lawyer, said Sunday he filed the appeal on behalf of his client on Dec 15 to invalidate a November Appeals Court verdict.
The court upheld its 2002 decision, sentencing Chhouk Rin to life for the leading role he took in the attack.
“I am not satisfied with the Appeals Court decision,” Puth Theavy said. He added that Chhouk Rin should be freed because the government already promised him amnesty.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court acquitted Chhouk Rin in 2000, based on legislation passed just weeks before the train raid. A 1994 law offered immunity to rebel members who defected to the government within six months of the law’s passage.
Relatives of the backpackers appealed the ruling and in September 2002 the Appeals Court found Chhouk Rin guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.
Last month, Chhouk Rin’s lawyers were granted a retrial at the Appeals Court at which the earlier decision was upheld.
In July 1994, Australian David Wilson, 29, Briton Mark Slater, 28, and French national Jean-Michel Braquet, 27, were abducted from the train and later murdered. At least 13 Cambodians also were killed.
But Chhouk Rin says he turned over the hostages to his superiors in October 1994, when he joined the government.
If the Supreme Court finds the defendant not guilty, it will order a retrial in the Appeals Court, where a final verdict will be issued, said Appeals Court clerk Leng Suonarith.
Chhouk Rin, who has remained free, said Sunday he is concerned about the case.
“I am sick. I am not doing anything. I am thinking about my court case,” he said by phone from his home in Phnom Voar village, Damnak Chang’aur district, Kep municipality. He said he wants to resign from his position in the military due to illness, and expressed little confidence about the case’s outcome.
“If I lose the case, I will comply with the law. I will surrender,” he said, later warning that his supporters in Phnom Voar, a former Khmer Rouge-stronghold, could rise up and stop authorities from taking him to court.