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MUJESTIC
'I am not a murderer,' pleads KR's first lady

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Cheang Sokha
Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The KR's first lady launches into an impromtu, emotionally charged speech at the tribunal, which her lawyers later play down, claiming she is just ?impatient'.
090225_01.jpg
Photo by: ECCC POOL / HENG SINITH
Former Khmer Rouge minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith, sits in the courtroom Tuesday during a hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh.

IN an angry courtroom outburst, the former Khmer Rouge so-called "first lady" Ieng Thirith told the Khmer Rouge tribunal Tuesday that she had nothing to do with killings under the murderous 1975-79 regime, and that these were the sole responsibility of detained former chief ideologist Nuon Chea and prison head Kaing Guek Eav.

"I am not a murderer," she told judges at a hearing to appeal her prolonged detention.

"Everything was done by Nuon Chea. Don't implicate Nuon Chea with me because they did those things," she said.

The emotional 76-year-old, who originally told the court she was "too weak" to talk, launched into a 15-minute oration when called on by judges before the conclusion of the hearing, threatening prosecutors who had earlier suggested she was linked to killings at the regime's notorios Tuol Sleng prison camp.
"Don't accuse me of murder, or you will be cursed to the seventh level of hell,"she said.

"The real murderer, the guy who killed everybody then detained, I had nothing to do with Kaing Guek Eav," she said, seeming to temporarily forget Kaing Guek Eav's name.

Ieng Thirith, who served as social affairs minister during the regime's three-year rule, was arrested by the court in 2007 on charges of crimes against humanity.

According to prosecutors Tuesday, hundreds of members of her ministry were detained, tortured and executed under the regime.

But lawyers argued that judges had found "no evidence linking her to crimes" since investigations began in 2007 and were merely detaining her based on the fact that she was a minister under the regime.

?I want justice to be done'
Though asked by her lawyer to respect her right to silence, the irate former leader said it was now time to tell the truth.

"I have to tell the truth, and I want justice to be done, and I don't want you to prosecute anyone but you have to make a decision based on your digression," she said.

"Kaing Guek Eav and Nuon Chea are the same people. Nuon Chea sent the orders, and Kaing Guek Eav carried them out.... I had nothing to do with Nuon Chea, but I knew what he had done and I knew that he killed people.... I had no involvement with Kaing Guek Eav.... I never knew where S-21 was," she added.

Switching between English and Khmer, she cited her well-to-do upbringing and education as cause for her innocence and recited a situation in which students of hers helping her to rebuild a hospital had been killed by Nuon Chea.

Don't accuse me of murder, or you will be cursed to the seventh level of hell


"I know who ordered Kaing Guek Eav to kill people, [and] I would like to say that is Nuon Chea who ordered the arrest of my students into a truck and then killed them," she said.

"I do not know why a good person is being accused of such crimes. I have suffered a great deal, and I can't be patient because I have been wrongly accused.... I come from a well-bred family.... I am well-educated and never committed any wrongdoing, and I have never been a murderer," she added.
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Photo by: eccc pool/john vink
Ieng Thirith, the former Khmer Rouge social affairs minister, in the dock at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Tuesday.

The former minister is the sister-in-law of the regime's leader Pol Pot, and is married to detained former foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary, who is currently in hospital after doctors found blood in his urine.

After the hearing, Ieng Thirith's Cambodian co-lawyer, Phat Pouv Seang, played down his client's accusations.

"She was angry and could not be patient," he told reporters. "These proceedings are more about pretrial detention."

Though lawyers have called on her deteriorating health as reason to release her, Phat Pouv Seang said Tuesday that she had not seen a doctor since July 2008.

Lawyers also argued Tuesday that co-investigating judges had concentrated their efforts on investigations into Kaing Guek Eav's case, which began its first trial hearing last week.

Nuon Chea's Cambodian co-lawyer, Son Arun, told the Post Tuesday that Ieng Thirith's comments were emotional and unfounded.

"She is always like that, angry all the time, mainly at Nuon Chea," he said, suggesting it may be a result of her deteriorating health.

"Every day at the detention centre she gets mad at Nuon Chea, I think because she blames him for a relative's death," he said.

Judges said a decision on the appeal would be released soon.

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