Nuon Chea’s Lawyer Sworn In; Trial To Resume

Dutch attorney Victor Koppe was sworn in as a member of the Cambodian bar Wednesday morning, paving the way for the immediate resumption of the bail hearing of his client, Brother Number Two Nuon Chea.

The pre-trial hearing on whether Nuon Chea should be released from pre-trial detention, which was postponed Monday because Koppe did not have the right to address the court, will recommence today.

Koppe’s application to work as an attorney in Cambodia was approved by the bar association’s ruling council Nov 5, but his Feb 1 swearing-in ceremony was unexpectedly called off at the request of the association.

The bar said the fact that Koppe signed a controversial request to disqualify Ney Thol, a judge in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s pre-trial chamber, three days before he was officially sworn in was a violation of Cambodian law.

Bar council member Ly Tayseng said 12 of the council’s 19 members voted unanimously to re-approve Koppe’s swearing-in, after Koppe “admitted he made a mistake because of a misunderstanding of Cambodian law” during a meeting with Ky Tech, president of the bar, on Tuesday.

“For us, we want to see the ECCC process moving smoothly,” Ly Tayseng added.

On Tuesday, Ky Tech wrote to the Prosecutor General at the Court of Appeal, asking him to reschedule the swearing-in ceremony.

“In a meeting on February 5, 2008, Bar Council members reviewed the mistakes of Mr Victor Koppe, and he admitted his fault because he didn’t understand Cambodian law clearly and apologized in front of the council members officially,” the letter read.

Koppe had a slightly different take on what transpired.

“I think I have expertise in international criminal law, but I have no expertise in Cambodian politics,” Koppe said by phone.

“I have not apologized for making a mistake. I apologized for the misunderstanding,” he added.

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