War crimes defendant Khieu Samphan personally pleaded to be released from detention at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday, arguing that he is not a flight risk, that his family would be able to take care of him and that he would attend every hearing by traveling to court on a motorbike.
The latest in a string of repeated calls for liberty by the 82-year-old former head of state came after his legal team filed an application for his immediate bail on March 29. A hearing on the application was held at the court Thursday after the morning’s witness, Francois Ponchaud, finished testifying.
“First and foremost I would like to confirm that I do not have any passport; I haven’t had a passport in a long time,” Khieu Samphan said, adding that when he “came out of the forest” and went to live in Pailin, he only had an ID card and electoral card.
He told the court that since all of his children are working and living in one apartment together, food and living costs are shared.
“I hope once I am released on bail I will live with them and they’ll be able to feed me every day,” he said.
“I would like to inform the court that my wife, when she comes to visit me in the detention center, travels by motorbike. If it is necessary that I participate in proceedings, I should be able to take a moto with her to come to this court.
“I will comply with all conditions imposed on me when released on bail. I would especially like to reassure the chamber that I will be present in all proceedings upon being summoned by the chamber until it is concluded,” Khieu Samphan added.
His lawyer, Arthur Vercken, had argued that his client deserved to be tried in a timely manner on the entirety of the allegations against him, which are contained in Case 002’s massive Closing Order.
He also said that the five years and four months Khieu Samphan has been in detention are unjustifiable.
Compared to his co-defendant Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan is relatively healthy, and he has been present in the courtroom for the majority of hearings.
But senior assistant prosecutor Tarik Abdulhak told the court that the Office of the Co-Prosecutors opposes the bail of a defendant in “one of the most complex criminal cases ever prosecuted.”
He said Khieu Samphan is an “easy target for anyone who would wish to harm him.
“The attitudes toward this accused and other alleged leaders of the Khmer Rouge continue to be colored by strong feelings of revenge on the part of the victims,” Mr. Abdulhak added.
“He may not be available, he may interfere with witnesses and his release may lead to an unacceptable disruption of public order,” Mr. Abdulhak added.
“It’s a risk that should not be taken. The court should keep Mr. Khieu Samphan detained while ensuring him that we will all act together to try to bring this trial to an expeditious conclusion,” he said.
The Trial Chamber said it would issue a decision in due course.
Earlier in the day, French author Francois Ponchaud provided his final day of testimony, telling the court of his interactions with Cambodian refugees in Thai border camps.
When asked if he was able to establish the veracity of stories they told him, he said: “When somebody appears before you with a gunshot in the neck, is that true or false?… When you meet refugees who still have scars from being whipped or struck with an ax, how is that a lie?”
Hearings will continue on April 22.