Khmer Rouge Prison Chief Convicted

Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court has found Kaing Guek Eav, the chief of the S-21 prison where thousands were tortured and killed during the Khmer Rouge's rule, guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was found guilty of murder and torture as well, and sentenced to 35 years in prison on Monday for his role in the deaths of at least 14,000 people at S-21, also known as Tuol Sleng prison.

 

Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court has found Kaing Guek Eav, the chief of the S-21 prison where thousands were tortured and killed during the Khmer Rouge's rule, guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was found guilty of murder and torture as well, and sentenced to 35 years in prison on Monday for his role in the deaths of at least 14,000 people at S-21, also known as Tuol Sleng prison.

Prosecutors had asked for a 40-year sentence from the court, which could have imposed a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Judge Nil Nonn shaved five years off Duch's 35-year sentence, ruling he had been held illegally for five years by the Cambodian military before the start of the tribunal.

Riot police had lined up outside the court on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh, on Monday as Duch arrived in a bullet proof car.

The 67-yea-old remained impassive as the verdict was read out on Monday.

First verdict

The verdict was the first by the court, established in 2006 after nearly a decade of negotiations between the government and the UN.

And Duch is the only senior Khmer Rouge figure to have acknowledged responsibility to the tribunal.

During nine months of hearings last year, he repeatedly begged forgiveness for overseeing the murders of around 14,000 people at the Tuol Sleng torture centre over three decades ago.

But the former math teacher then asked to be released on the final day of hearings on grounds that he was not a key leader in the government and was only following orders.

The Khmer Rouge, led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, emptied Cambodia's cities during its 1975-1979 rule, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to take society back to "Year Zero" and forge a Marxist utopia.

Starvation and overworkDuch asked forgiveness from victims' families but said he was just following orders [File: AFP]

An estimated two million people were killed in the notorious "Killing Fields" or died from starvation and overwork before a Vietnamese-backed force toppled the government.

Pol Pot died in 1998 but four other Khmer Rouge leaders, all said to be more senior than Duch, are in custody awaiting trial.

"Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan, the former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was the minister of social affairs, are expected to go on trial next year.

Duch has been detained since 1999, when an investigative journalist found him working as a Christian aid worker in the jungle.

Source : Aljazeera