A lawyer for Nuon Chea was chastised three times at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday for accusing a survivor of the notorious Kraing Ta Chan prison of fabricating stories of mass murder and torture during his testimony.
Victor Koppe, a lawyer for Pol Pot’s former second-in-command, attempted to deliver a statement claiming that witness Meas Sokha “made up” testimony at Wednesday’s hearing, including that babies were smashed to death against trees and Khmer Rouge cadres mixed dried human gallbladders with wine before drinking the liquid.
“[This statement] is all regarding the witness that testified yesterday and earlier this month. It is our position that this witness Mr. Sokha is lying and that he has been lying about crimes he claimed to have witnessed at Kraing Ta Chan,” Mr. Koppe said.
He was quickly cut short due to an objection by assistant prosecutor Dale Lysak, who said he “could not possibly disagree more with the first words that came” from Mr. Koppe. Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn reminded the defense lawyer that he was prohibited from voicing personal conclusions during testimony and turned down his request to cross-examine the witness for a further three hours.
After Mr. Sokha gave a series of confused answers during the hearing, including saying he could not explain the method in which babies were smashed against trees despite claiming to have seen the killings, Mr. Koppe again accused the witness of lying.
“I put it to you that you never saw the smashing of a baby against a tree, is that correct?” the lawyer said.
Judge Nonn shut down the line of questioning, to which Mr. Koppe protested that his inquiry was legitimate, sarcastically stating that “interesting things happen in this court.”
Under questioning about his earlier claim that he had seen about 130 people killed and thrown into pits at the prison in Takeo province, Mr. Sokha changed his story, telling the court that he had seen only one person murdered before going to tend water buffalo.
Judge Nonn then told the witness not to answer a question from Mr. Koppe, requesting that he elaborate on what he witnessed during the mass killing, a move the defense lawyer labeled as “disgraceful.”
Anta Guisse, a lawyer for Khieu Samphan, briefly questioned the witness on the discrepancy between his estimate that more than 300 people were brought to the prison per month and that of a former Khmer Rouge cadre, who said there were just 20 to 30 new arrivals each month.
Mr. Sokha blamed the disparity on the cadre—an ex-messenger for the regime—being fearful of admitting the truth in case he was perceived as a “perpetrator.”
Oum Sophany, a regime victim participating in the case as a civil party, was the next to take the stand, but proceedings were adjourned with less than an hour remaining because Khieu Samphan was suffering from minor health issues.