Judicial investigators have refused to release former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, saying nearly a year after his Nov 19 arrest that the evidence against him and the need to preserve evidence still justify detention.
The Oct 28 decision by the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s co-investigating judges, which was made public Friday, is the first public ruling to uphold Khieu Samphan’s detention on the grounds of evidence, much of which the defense claims it still cannot read.
Lawyers for the 77-year-old Khieu Samphan, who has long claimed he had no real power under Democratic Kampuchea, sought bail last December by saying there was insufficient evidence to justify his detention and asked the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber to declare Khieu Samphan “not guilty.”
However, in April French defense attorney Jacques Verges refused to argue the bail motion in open court, saying he could not participate as the tribunal had failed to translate the evidence against his client into French, one of the court’s three working languages.
The defense on Oct 8 withdrew the bail motion rather than allow the court to decide it without hearing oral arguments, and the same day filed a new motion with the court’s co-investigating judges, saying that the conditions justifying Khieu Samphan’s detention had disappeared.
Co-investing judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng declined in July to release Khieu Samphan on health grounds. Citing confidential evidence, they have also denied this latest motion, saying that investigators had a “well founded reason” to believe Khieu Samphan “knew of, facilitated and encouraged” crimes including the forcible evacuation of Phnom Penh, forced labor, executions, high-level purges within the Communist Party and religious persecution, and that he publicized and helped form Communist Party policy in speeches and in political indoctrination.
“There still exist well founded reasons to believe that the charged person has incited the commission of crimes for which he is being pursued, specifically murder, extermination, imprisonment, willful killing, persecution and other inhumane acts constituting crimes against humanity,” the judges found, adding that evidence also pointed to Khieu Samphan’s responsibility for war crimes.
Cambodian defense attorney Sa Sovan on Sunday said the defense persisted in demanding translations and would appeal the co-investigating judges’ decision to the Pre-Trial Chamber.