The lawyer for former Khmer Rouge Minister of Social Action Ieng Thirith said Wednesday that he will appeal his client’s detention at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on the grounds that she is mentally ill.
Attorney Phat Pouv Seang said that he will submit a 200-page medical report from Thailand detailing Ieng Thirith’s supposed mental illness along with the appeal for her release ahead of trial.
On Nov 15, the ECCC’s co-investigating judges ordered that Ieng Thirith, 75, and her husband, former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, 82, be placed in pretrial detention for up to one year.
Phat Pouv Seang said that the medical report, which he admitted he had not yet read because it is still being translated from Thai to Khmer, shows that his client has been taking medicine for her unspecified mental condition for “many years.”
“I will use these documents as evidence to ask the court for her to stay out of prison,” he said. According the tribunal’s internal rules, an appeal of a provisional detention order must be made within 30 days of the order being received.
Ieng Thirith’s behavior while in custody at the ECCC pretrial detention facility should also contribute to convincing the court to grant her bail, Phat Pouv Seang said.
“Some days she is nervous and shouts at people and talks to herself,” he claimed, adding that his client has difficulty sleeping and suffers from memory loss.
“If she is found [by the court] to be mentally unfit, she will be freed because nobody would try a mentally ill person,” he said.
In late October, family members also claimed that doctors in Thailand had diagnosed Ieng Thirith as mentally ill.
Peter Foster, UN public affairs officer for the ECCC, declined to comment since the medical report has not been submitted to the court.
“When it is, it will be carefully be examined,” he said.
ECCC Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde also declined to comment on Ieng Thirith’s case but he did note, however, that Rule 80 of the tribunal’s internal rules states that the court can try an accused person in absentia if they are deemed to be too unhealthy to stand trial.
On Wednesday, Mao Phearom, deputy at the ECCC detention facility, said that Ieng Thirith was in good health both physically and mentally, although that wasn’t the case when she first arrived at the jail.
“She was bad tempered the first time she was in the detention room, but now she has calmed down,” he said.
“Our staff have looked after them better than their own fathers and mothers because they are old,” he said of the aging Khmer Rouge detainees, adding that Ieng Thirith and Ieng Sary see each other during their daily exercise, but are not allowed to talk to each other.