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Cambodia Genocide Suspect Ruled Unfit for Trial


Ieng Thirith, center, former Khmer Rouge social affairs minister, appears in court room of the U.N.-backed tribunal during a hearing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (File Photo)

Ieng Thirith, center, former Khmer Rouge social affairs minister, appears in court room of the U.N.-backed tribunal during a hearing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (File Photo)

Cambodia's United Nation's-backed tribunal has ruled that a former senior Khmer Rouge leader was unfit to stand trial for genocide charges and should be released from prison.

Court appointed experts say Ieng Thirith, 79, suffers from memory loss and dementia and would be unable to meaningfully participate in her defense.

Ieng Thirith was the sister-in-law of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot and served as the minister of social affairs.

She was among four senior regime members charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes in the deaths of up to 2 million Cambodians during the communist regime's rule. The other defendants are Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, reputed chief ideologue Nuon Chea and Ieng Thirth's husband, Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary.

In other developments Thursday, the war crimes court announced it will rule on the appeal of former Khmer Rouge security chief Duch on February 3.

Last year, the tribunal sentenced Duch to 35 years in prison after ruling he was responsible for the deaths of more than 12,000 detainees at S-21 prison, which he headed between 1976 and 1979.

Duch, 69, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has admitted his role in the deaths, but says he should be freed because he was only following orders.

S-21 prison, which Duch oversaw for three years, was a secret center where the Khmer Rouge sent thousands of perceived enemies of the revolution.

An estimated 15,000 people were tortured and interrogated at S-21 and then killed after Duch signed their execution orders.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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