KR Torture Chief Not Eligible for Release

Former Khmer Rouge torture chief Duch will not be released from prison at the end of this week when he completes his pre-trial detention because he has been recently accused of a new crime that could allow the Phnom Penh Military Court to hold him for three more years.

Investigating Judge Ngin Sam An of the Phnom Penh Military Court said he found evidence implicating Duch in crimes against humanity and filed a charge Feb 20 against the Khmer Rouge figure, a former math teacher and now born-again Christian.

Duch, the former director of Tuol Sleng prison, was captured and flown to Phnom Penh on May 9, 1999, and then charged May 10 with genocide and treason under a law banning the Khmer Rouge. A special act of the National Assembly allowed the court to hold him for three years on those charges as negotiations for a trial progressed.

Duch’s lawyer, Kar Savuth, said he sent a letter Tuesday to the court to ask that his client be released. “I would like him to stay outside of detention because he has stayed in jail for three years,” said Kar Savuth, making an argument that his client be released on bail. “For three years it’s not acceptable if there’s not a trial.”

Kar Savuth said he has little hope of seeing his client released. Ta Mok, former Khmer Rouge military commander and the only other Khmer Rouge figure in prison today, was also charged with a new crime of crimes against humanity when he completed three years of pre-trial detention in February.

According to lawyers with the Cambodian Bar Association, the court can hold both men for three more years on the new charge.

It’s unclear when, if ever, a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders will take place. After five years of often stalled negotiations, the UN in February pulled out of trial talks with the Cambo­dian government, accusing the Cambodians of being uncooperative. Since then there has been little more than an exchange of accusations over whose fault it is that the trial process fell apart.

Ngin Sam An did not explain the evidence that justifies the new criminal charge for Duch, known to his family as Kaing Khek Iev, or why it was filed years after his arrest. “I already informed his lawyer with a written letter about the new charge to his client,” said Ngin Sam An, adding that Duch remains healthy. “He is now fatter than before he was detained,” he said. Ta Mok, on the other hand, “is a little bit sick,” the judge said.

Numerous Tuol Sleng documents bearing Duch’s signature exist today; many are in storage at the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

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