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Prosecutors Push for Quick Resumption of Khmer Rouge Trial

FILE - Khieu Samphan (l), former Khmer Rouge head of state, and Nuon Chea, Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, sit in the court room before they made closing statements at the U.N.- backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Oct. 31, 2013.
Officials of Cambodia's United Nations-backed war crimes court met in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to discuss moving forward with the second phase of the case against two aging Khmer Rouge leaders, but prosecutors and lawyers are at odds over how quickly to proceed.

The court’s international prosecutor, Nicholas Koumjian, said he wants this phase of the trial to move forward as quickly as possible.

Given that the crimes are alleged to have taken place more than 30 years ago, and with the two defendants both aging, the impending trial should take place “as soon as possible,” Koumjian said.

That could mean opening the trial by the end of February, he said.

But defense lawyer Anta Guisse has requested the next phase be delayed until after the verdicts from the first phase of their trial are rendered next year.

Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan and the regime’s chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, are facing charges of genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity.

As many as two million Cambodians died from starvation, overwork and executions during the four-year rule of the Khmer Rouge, which attempted to create an agrarian communist utopia.

The first phase of the trial, dealing with the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975, concluded in October. But a verdict is not expected until sometime next year. The scope of the second phase has not yet been determined.

More discussions on how to proceed will continue Thursday.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.