PHNOM PENH —
The U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday wrapped up three days of appeals hearings for former regime leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, who were found guilty of atrocity crimes in the initial part of their two-phase trial.
Prosecutors said Friday they are confident the Supreme Court Chamber will uphold the guilty verdict of the lower chamber, delivering life sentences to both men, despite arguments by the defense that the trial has been conducted unfairly.
Nuon Chea, the regime’s chief ideologue, and Khieu Samphan, its nominal head of state, are still undergoing the second stage of their trial, a broader set of crimes, including genocide.
Cambodian prosecutor Chea Leang said Friday she backed the prosecution’s call for life sentences for the two men. International prosecutor Nicholas Koumijan said the arguments and evidence presented during the first phase of the trial would lead the Supreme Court to uphold the decision of the lower chamber.
However, Khieu Samphan’s lawyer, Kong Som Onn, said that the decision of the preliminary court did not provide justice for his client, because Khieu Samphan did not have any power in decision-making under the Khmer Rouge and served as head of state in name only.
"Prosecutors, as well as preliminary court, did not show anything else besides suspicion over Khieu Samphan’s activities in relation with the crimes," he said.
FILE - A woman cries in front of skulls and bones of more than 8,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge regime at a "Killing Fields" site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 17, 2015.
The appeals hearing took place without Nuon Chea, who has declined to participate, following the court’s refusal to call the current president of the Senate, Heng Samrin. Koumijian said Nuon Chea’s failure to take part in hearings meant he gave up a chance to seek justice.
The three-day hearing instead focused on Khieu Samphan, examining charges related to the evacuation of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge when it won power in 1975 and the subsequent killings of soldiers from the previous regime of Lon Nol. Khieu Samphan has said he had no knowledge of what was happening and no real power inside the regime.
More than 1,300 people came to watch the three days of hearings, according to tribunal counts, among them civil party complainants, students and relatives of victims.
In the audience was Yan Navi, from Tbaung Kmum province, who told VOA Khmer she had lost relatives to the regime, including an uncle, brothers and sisters. Another woman said she lost many relatives as well.
"My brother, uncle and father were killed without reason," she said. "I am not satisfied. I want all the masterminds to be convicted."
This report was produced by VOA's Khmer Service.