Former Khmer Rouge military commander Ta Mok could be released from detention if a court allows it, Minister of Cabinet Sok An said Monday.
“It is a lawyer’s right to make a request for his defendant to be released from prison. But the court is the decision maker,” Sok An told journalists at a judicial seminar at the Royal School of Administration.
“It depends on the court’s decision,” he said.
Last week, Ta Mok’s representative, disbarred lawyer Benson Samay, appealed to the government and the UN to release the aging commander, who has been in detention since 1999 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
His time in captivity far exceeds the legal six-month pre-trial detention period, but the National Assembly has twice voted to keep him in custody pending a tribunal for former Khmer Rouge leaders.
Sok An said he will leave for New York on Saturday, leading a Cambodian delegation to restart talks with the UN toward establishing that tribunal.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said he hoped that the two sides would be willing to compromise.
“Both sides have to be wide open to negotiation,” he said by phone from New York. “They are going to New York to negotiate, not to repeat the same stance.”
Earlier this month, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution mandating Secretary-General Kofi Annan to restart talks, which the UN called off in February over concerns the tribunal would not be independent.