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Khmer Rouge Ex-Leaders Give Final Statements at War Crimes Tribunal

The Khmer Rouge's former number two leader denied charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in his final statement at a United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia Thursday.

Nuon Chea told the Phnom Penh court he felt the "deepest remorse" for the victims of the Khmer Rouge, but insisted he never told any of his communist cadres to commit crimes.

"Through this trial, it is indicated clearly that I was not engaged in any commission of the crimes as alleged by the co-prosecutors. In short, I am innocent in relation to those allegations."

The 87-year-old, who served as the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue, insisted he was carrying out his duty to serve his country and what he called his "beloved people."

Khieu Samphan, the movement's 82-year-old former head of state, is also giving his final statement Thursday. The two men are the most senior living ex-leaders of the Khmer Rouge, which is blamed for the deaths of as many as 2 million Cambodians during its four-year rule.

Among the hundreds of survivors in attendance was 55-year-old Bin Sivla from Porsat Province, who hopes for a tough verdict against the men.

"I cannot allow the court to release Nuon Chea. Because of my suffering as the regime killed many of my family members, I would ask the court to hang him."

Prosecutors are seeking the maximum punishment of life in prison for both men, who deny the charges and say they were not aware of the atrocities that took place under their rule. A verdict in the trial, known as Case 002, is expected in the first half of next year.

The case opened in 2007 with four defendants. But Former foreign secretary Ieng Sary died this year at age 87. His wife, Ieng Thirith was found mentally unfit for trial.

In Case 001, the court convicted notorious prison warden Kaing Kek Eav, also known as Duch, to life in prison. He is the only former Khmer Rouge leader to be convicted in the tribunal, which started in 2006.

The leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, died in 1998. In attempting to create a socialist utopia, critics say the movement brought on one of the 20th century's worst atrocities, killing up to a quarter of Cambodia's population through starvation, overwork, and executions.

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