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Khmer Rouge Defendant Sent to Hospital as Cambodia Tribunal Resumes

Khieu Samphan, center, former Khmer Rouge head of state, sits in a court room of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, in Phnom Penh, Jan. 8, 2015.

Khmer Rouge defendant Khieu Samphan was sent to the hospital during testimony in Cambodia, Thursday, causing a resumed hearing at the U.N.-backed tribunal to end early.

Khieu Samphan, 83, the former nominal head of the regime, suffered high blood pressure and dizziness as the hearing got under way and was sent away by midday, ending the hearing for the day.

Nuon Chea, 88, the second defendant and the regime’s chief ideologue, was not present in court Thursday due to poor health, and instead, watched proceedings via a video link from his detention chambers.

The tribunal has struggled to get this second and final phase of the trial under way.

Defense teams boycotted proceedings late last year, claiming they needed more time to prepare Khieu Samphan’s appeal of the first phase of the trial, which sentenced both aging men to life in prison for their leadership roles within the regime.

Hearings Thursday included testimony from a witness at the Kraing Tachann security center, where an estimated 15,000 died.

In the second phase of the trial, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan face charges for atrocity crimes - including genocide - committed by the Khmer Rouge under their leadership.

As many as 2 million Cambodians died from starvation, overwork and execution during the four-year rule of the Khmer Rouge, which attempted to create an agrarian communist utopia.

The group's leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 and co-founder Ieng Sary died in 2013.

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