Seeking bail for a third and final time, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan appeared before the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday, arguing that he held no effective power under Democratic Kampuchea.
In a rare statement before the court, he defended his role as the public face of the Pol Pot regime, arguing that, unlike the court’s other suspects, he had no real power.
“At that time the country was in a chaotic situation under various factors, and to take up the role as State Presidium was not only to represent the Khmer Rouge but to represent the entire Cambodian nation.”
“What was my power then, if you may ask?” he continued. “I had no real power…. I was nothing.”
Khieu Samphan, 78, who has been charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, said he took issue with prosecutors’ assertions that his release would be a threat to public order.
“Just ask real Cambodian people,” he urged the judges. “If you ask just a few, they might have their personal reasons, but if you listen to the voice of the Cambodian people as a whole, you would understand the state I was in, that I did not make a decision to kill anyone and was not aware of any decision to kill anyone.”
The court’s co-investigating judges extended his provisional detention for a third year in November, citing threats to public order and Khieu Samphan’s own security if he were to be released. They also said they had found additional evidence that helped prove the suspect had played a role in promoting and disseminating the party’s policies, which caused the deaths of millions.
Prosecutors echoed this in their remarks, saying that the threat to public order was very real given the lingering social trauma of the Khmer Rouge era, and that “an abundance of facts and information” justified Khieu Samphan’s detention.
But Khieu Samphan’s Cambodian lawyer, Sa Sovan, said that his client should leave detention because he is an innocent man.
“I feel that my client has not committed any crimes,” he said. “I have known him since he was a parliamentarian…and have never known him to steal even a chicken.”
Jacques Vergès, the French defense lawyer whose behavior has incurred the court’s censure after each of his appearances at prior bail hearings, did not appear on Friday.