The Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday distributed the first copies of the printed and bound verdict in the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, at several sites around Phnom Penh that were key to the Duch case.
“We think it is important for the general public and researchers to read the verdict and understand more details about what happened at S-21 and Choeung Ek and S-24,” said ECCC public affairs chief Reach Sambath. “The people we met there were so happy, and the chief of Prey Sar commune said it was beyond his expectations that he would hold the verdict in his hands.”
Duch was the chairman of Khmer Rouge security centers S-21 and Prey Sar (S-24), and the killing fields at Choeung Ek were used as an execution site for many of his prisoners.
At Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former site of S-21, prison survivors Chum Mey, Vann Nath and Bou Meng were presented with bound copies of the verdict and raised them to the sky.
“Van Nath raised his hands into the air to show the verdict to the spirits,” recalled Mr Sambath, “and he said, ‘Beloved friends, colleagues and prisoners who were here, I am happy now to show you that this is the verdict that found Duch guilty-we have waited 35 for this occasion and now you should join me in happiness.’ He called the souls of Tuol Sleng, and it was very emotional.”
Mr Mey has publicly registered his strong opposition to the verdict, which sentenced Duch to 35 years in prison, of which he will serve only 19.
Despite media reports yesterday that he had changed his mind upon receiving his copy of the book, he said this was not true. “I still don’t agree with the 19 years in jail–it can still not be accepted,” he said. “I am satisfied with the book, but I am not satisfied with the verdict.”
Mr Sambath said that due to high demand “from every corner of the universe,” the court would be printing 5,000 more copies of the 450-page verdict.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)