Former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav has hired a second Cambodian lawyer, the Khmer Rouge tribunal said Friday.
Lars Olsen, legal communications officer of the tribunal, said that as of Friday Kang Ritheary was empowered to defend crimes against humanity convict, who is best known as Duch.
For his role in the deaths of as many as 14,000 people detained by the Khmer Rouge secret police, Duch was sentenced last month to 35 years in prison, of which only 19 remain to be served after a reduction for unlawful pretrial detention and time already served.
Though the penalty drew strong reactions from the public due to its relative leniency, the defense have vowed to appeal, claiming that Duch was not senior enough within the Democratic Kampuchea government to fall within the court’s jurisdiction.
Kar Savuth, Duch’s Cambodian co-counsel at trial, made this argument in the final moments of trial in November, causing a rift with the French defense lawyer Francois Roux, who had orchestrated a defense pleading for a reduced sentence.
Duch discharged Mr Roux last month, claiming he had lost confidence in him.
Reached by telephone Friday Mr Ritheary, 41, said that he could not say why Duch had chosen him, but that he had relevant experience.
“I have some experiences in researching the Khmer Rouge tribunal in 1997 and 1998,” he said, declining to discuss a defense strategy, or when Duch intended to file a motion of appeal, until he had consulted with Mr Savuth.
“With professional consideration, I do not want to talk much about this. I want to be at low profile,” he said.
Currently an attorney at the Phnom Penh law firm Asean International Law Group, Mr Ritheary underwent training in international criminal law at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, where he has also served as a legal consultant.
Mr Olsen confirmed that Duch had not yet filed a notice of appeal and that he had until Aug 25 to do so. After filing the notice, the defense would have a further 60 days to file a motion of appeal.
After Mr Roux’s dismissal, Mr Savuth said Duch would like to replace Mr Roux with a Chinese lawyer who had a knowledge of communism.
Mr Olsen said that Duch had chosen Mr Ritheary because had not found a suitable lawyer of Chinese or any other non-Cambodian nationality, but could not confirm whether or not Duch was continuing to look for a foreign lawyer.
“Kaing Guek Eav had provided certain criteria to the defense section of the tribunal. They were not able to find an international lawyer that met those criteria so Kaing Guek Eav himself chose to be represented by two Cambodian lawyers.