KRouge court rejects leader's translation appeal

7 hours ago

PHNOM PENH (AFP) ? Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan Friday lost an appeal at Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal to have his case file translated into French for his famed attorney.

The genocidal regime's leader and his lawyers have argued that in the absence of the translation of the documents into French -- one of the court's three official languages -- Khieu Samphan would not have a fair trial.

Khieu Samphan, 77, is being defended by famed French lawyer Jacques Verges, who has acted for some of the world's most infamous figures including Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan terrorist "Carlos the Jackal".

Judge Prak Kimsan, head of the tribunal's pre-trial chamber, said Friday that the "appeal is inadmissible" because the court's rules do not provide for appeals relating to translation issues.

The judge also said that the defence team already had legal assistants who understand the languages used by the hybrid international-Cambodian court, which was set up in 2006 after years of haggling with the United Nations.

Verges, who is representing Khieu Samphan along with Cambodian lawyer Sa Sovan, said during an appeal hearing last December that only 2.5 percent of the 60,000-page case file had been translated.

Sa Sovan said he was "very regretful" at the ruling.

"The suspect's rights have been violated. So there is no justice at this court," the lawyer said.

But the prosecution welcomed the decision, with Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang saying it was "very important" to make proceedings move forward quickly.

Khieu Samphan is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders who have been detained by the court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity under the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge's brutal 1975-1979 regime.

He went before the court for the first time in April last year to appeal against his pre-trial detention.

The judges adjourned that hearing and warned Verges over his behaviour after he said he was unable to act for his client because court documents had not been translated.

A fierce anti-colonialist, Verges, who was born in Thailand, reportedly befriended Khieu Samphan and other future Khmer Rouge leaders while at university in Paris in the 1950s.

Up to two million people are believed to have been executed or died of starvation and overwork as the communist regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia.

The long-awaited first Khmer Rouge trial started earlier this week when the regime's notorious prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, went before the court.

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