Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister leng Sary appeared before
Cambodia's genocide tribunal to press for his release from pretrial
detention. He is one of five defendants being held by the so-called
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, set up to try the
former leaders of the ultra-Maoist group for crimes against humanity.
Rory Byrne reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
infirm, 82-year-old leng Sary appeared in court today to appeal for his
release from pre-trial detention on the grounds of ill-health.
lawyers said that he is too old and frail to pose a flight-risk or to
threaten potential witnesses, and asked that he be placed under house
arrest until his trial begins, probably next year.
is charged with crimes against humanity, committed during the brutal
1975-1979 rule by the Khmer Rouge, when almost two million people died
from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.
'Brother Number Three' in the organization's secretive hierarchy, he
was deputy prime minister as well as foreign minister of Democratic
Kampuchea, as Cambodia was renamed by the Khmer Rouge. Using his
position, he encouraged thousands of Cambodians living abroad to come
home. Almost all were later executed.
Youk Channg is the
director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which is compiling
evidence on the Khmer Rouge regime ahead of the upcoming trials.
is sort of the international face of the Khmer Rouge, out there [to]
convince the world, and the West, to believe that the regime was a
success and was good for the country," said Channg. "His mission
[was] to bring Cambodians abroad back to the country to help build the
revolution - and usually [the] people ended up executed."
Sary was given an amnesty by the government in 1996 as a reward for
breaking with the Khmer Rouge, along with hundreds of his supporters.
Until his arrest last year, he lived in a palatial villa in the capital
Phnom Penh, earning a small-fortune from gold and precious-stones
Youk Channg says his prosecution is seen as particularly important for many Cambodians.
[was] the untouchable Khmer Rouge leader that has been protected by the
government, given amnesty by the kings, and have so much money," said
Channg. "So for all of us who is the victims having him arrested makes
a huge difference."
leng Sary is one of five defendants being
held by the tribunal, which plans to begin its first trial later this
year. His wife, 76-year-old Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer
Rouge's social affairs minister, is also being held on charges of
crimes against humanity.
A decision on leng Sary's appeal is not
expected for a couple of weeks. Similar appeals by other defendants
have been rejected.