Nuon Paet Appeals Life Sentence

Former Khmer Rouge commander Nuon Paet has asked an appeals court to reduce the prison sentence he received for his role in a 1994 train ambush that ended with the execution of three Western backpackers, a judge said Tuesday.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Boninh Bunnary said the case was forwarded to the appeals court last week after Nuon Paet filed to reduce his life sentence and an order that he pay thousands of dollars in compensation to the families of the three backpackers and at least 13 Cambodians killed in the raid.

‘‘This is his case and his right as well,’’ the judge said. ‘‘In my opinion, the penalties were suitable, but other people may have a different point of view. It is up to the appeals court judge.’’

Nuon Paet was sentenced to life in prison June 7, almost five years after Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, 27; Briton Mark Slater, 28; and Australian David Wilson, 29 were taken hostage and held in his jungle camp. The standoff prompted more than two months of frenetic negotiations, garnered worldwide media attention and led to a military offensive on Nuon Paet’s jungle stronghold that drove Khmer Rouge out of the area.

Nuon Paet placed the blame for the executions and the raid on his commander Sam Bith, now a two-star RCAF general.

Nuon Paet’s lawyer could not be reached for comment. Efforts to contact appeals court officials were unsuccessful.

Boninh Bunnary Tues­day dismissed charges made by some who monitored the June trial that the verdict was pre-written and engineered to diffuse diplomatic pressure by the home countries of the three slain backpackers. ‘‘I would like to confirm that there was no interference from the government.’’

Charges are pending against Sam Bith and the man who allegedly led the train raid, Chhouk Rin, based on evidence that emerged during the Nuon Paet trial, she noted.


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