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MUJESTIC
Cambodian genocide judges reject corruption claims

Cambodian judges denied Friday that they paid kickbacks to government officials to secure jobs on a genocide tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.

The judges were responding to a complaint filed by lawyers for Nuon Chea, one of five former senior Khmer Rouge leaders due to be tried by the U.N.-backed tribunal for crimes against humanity and other offenses.

The dispute could further delay the tribunal&aposs much-postponed first trial, which was slated to begin early this year. The tribunal is tasked with seeking justice for the atrocities committed by the ultra-communist regime, whose radical policies caused an estimated 1.7 million deaths during its four years in power in the 1970s.

Many Cambodians are frustrated that the Khmer Rouge leaders have still not been tried three decades after the regime fell in 1979, and fear the aging and infirm defendants could die before they face justice. Cambodian politics and disagreements between the government and the U.N. delayed the establishment of the tribunal for years. Disputes over procedure and allegations of corruption have further held up its launch.

The lawyers&aposcomplaint filed in a Phnom Penh court on Thursday alleged the judges were paying a portion of their salaries to the government officials who had awarded them their prestigious tribunal jobs. The alleged corruption "could undermine the fundamental right to a fair trial,"the complaint said.

The judges denied they had made any illegal payments and said they would sue their accusers.

"We absolutely reject such an accusation ... (and) we reserve the right to legal recourse against any individuals,"they said in a Friday statement.

Nuon Chea, 81, was the chief ideologist for the Khmer Rouge. The others detained for trial are: former head of state Khieu Samphan; ex- Foreign Minister Ieng Sary; his wife Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge social affairs minister; and Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who headed the former S-21 prison, the Khmer Rouge&aposs largest torture facility.
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