The wife of former Democratic Kampuchea head of state Khieu Samphan said on Friday that controversial French attorney Jacques Verges will come to Cambodia in August to defend her husband.
Suor Socheat confirmed that Verges, known for defending Nazi Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, terrorist Carlos the Jackal and offering to defend former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein, will defend Khieu Samphan.
Khieu Samphan announced in early 2004 that Verges would defend him in the event that he was charged by a Khmer Rouge tribunal.
“[Khieu Samphan] already has a lawyer and he will come in August,” Suor Socheat said. “He comes voluntarily and my husband doesn’t spend any money,” she said, adding that Verges had come to visit her husband last year and again a few months ago.
Suor Socheat said that her husband is not talking to the press.
In February 2004 Khieu Samphan said that he had befriended Verges while he was a student in France in the 1950s.
“He and I used to attend meetings of student committees against colonialism. That’s what bound us together in friendship,” Khieu Samphan said at the time.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia announced on July 18 that prosecutors have passed on five suspects names to the tribunal’s investigating judges. None of the names have been revealed to the public, but Khieu Samphan is widely thought to be among them—a suspicion that Suor Socheat says her husband shares.
“He has realized that he will be charged and summoned and detained,” she said. “And we are worried—is there clear evidence that he must be detained?”
Suor Socheat said that her husband did nothing wrong during the regime under whose leadership an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died.
“He never did anything affecting the people and the nation…. [H]e never had any soldiers. Is there really any evidence?” she asked. “He is not scared, he understands that he has not done anything affecting anyone.”
Kar Savuth, attorney for Kaing Kek Iev, better known as Duch, the commander of the notorious S-21 detention center, said Friday that he had heard that his client will be transferred to the prison facilities at the ECCC next week.
Duch has been held in detention at the Military Court in Phnom Penh since his capture in 1999.
“We know in advance,” Kar Savuth said of the possible move, but declined to reveal the source of his information.
“[Duch] prays just to be at the new place,” he said, adding that his client is looking forward to appearing before the tribunal so that “the white and the black can be known.”
“[Duch] is not worried about anything,” Kar Savuth said. “Because he understands clearly that in the communist regime, if you didn’t follow orders, it would have killed him too.”
Rupert Skilbeck, principle defender in the ECCC’s Defense Support Section, said that around 20 foreign lawyers have begun the process of getting registered with the court. He declined to say if Verges was among them, because the court does not discuss individual applications.
Skilbeck said that all foreign attorneys must register with the Cambodian Bar Association—a process that takes about a month—if they want defend a client before the court.
Attorneys do not need to register with the ECCC unless they want the court to compensate them for their services, he said. Lawyers looking to register with the bar association can submit their documentation through the ECCC, which will do the necessary document translating, he added.
Once charged or summoned to the court, defendants and suspects can then chose from lawyers registered with the court, or get their own attorney, so long as they are registered with the bar association.
On the subject of Duch’s possible transfer to the ECCC detention facility, Skilbeck stressed that no suspects have been named, but if Duch is named “one would assume that he would be transferred rather soon, because he is already in custody.”
Skilbeck added that he did not know when or if such a transfer might happen.
(Additional reporting by John Maloy)