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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Khmer Rouge leader halts Cambodia genocide court cooperation: report

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The French lawyer defending Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan at Cambodia's genocide tribunal has said his client will no longer co-operate with the UN-backed court, a report said Wednesday.

Jacques Verges, nicknamed "the Devil's advocate" for his defence of some of the world's most notorious criminals, said Khieu Samphan would not speak to court officials until thousands of pages of evidence against him is translated into French.

"In a trial, there is a human being and this human being is fighting," Verges was quoted as telling the English-language Cambodia Daily.

He also told the paper that without a translation of the court documents, which are in English, he would not be able to adequately defend his client.

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

In a long career, he has acted for Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Tribunal co-investigating judge Marcel Lemonde told AFP that other suspects detained by the UN-backed court have also invoked their right "to remain silent at every stage of the proceedings."

But he said this would not hamper the court's investigation into their alleged crimes.

"We have to organise the investigation differently, that's it," he said in an email.

So far five people have been detained by the tribunal, including former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, the most senior surviving leader of the 1975-79 regime which oversaw one of the worst chapters of the 20th century.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed by the communist Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society in its effort to forge a radical agrarian utopia.

Cities were emptied, their populations exiled to vast collective farms, while schools were closed, religion banned and the educated classes targeted for extermination.
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US embassy in Cambodia receives threat

The US embassy in Cambodia received a terrorist threat prompting authorities to dispatch police and military police to protect it, a government official said.

Khieu Sopheak, the spokesman of Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior on Tuesday (Feb 19) confirmed that there was a threat against the US embassy.

“The threat was sent through a media company, which informed the US embassy on the threat. The US embassy told the authority and we sent our forces to protect the embassy,” the spokesman said. “In addition, we also made an investigation and now we know the identity of the suspect.”

He declined to give more details about the suspect.

During his visit to Koh Kong, Joseph Mussomelli, the US ambassador confirmed the threat. “However, we should not pay too much attention to the threat as it doest not pose any security or safety threat to us,” the US ambassador said. “We are not concerned about the threat.”

The ambassador said American officials in Cambodia still feel secured and safe to move around.

A police source said hundreds of police and military police—both in uniform and civilian clothes—were sent to protect the US embassy and the residence of the US ambassador following the threat. The armed forces were also deployed near the French and British embassies.
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