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Prosecution rests in trial of 2 former Khmer Rouge leaders

Oct. 31, 2013 at 7:09 AM   |   Comments

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Prosecutors at the Khmer Rouge trial in Cambodia rested their case against two Khmer Rouge leaders, saying a fair verdict would be life in prison.

Prosecutors and lawyers representing civilian third parties finished their rebuttal Wednesday of defense arguments as to why Nuon Chea, 87, and Khieu Samphan, 82, should be acquitted, The Cambodia Daily reported.

Nuon Chea, former chief ideologist of the Khmer Rouge, and Khieu Samphan, Cambodia's head of state during Pol Pot's rule, were to address the court Thursday.

International co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian sought to rebut defense claims the the defendants' rights to a fair trial were denied, insisting "every effort" was made to ensure the fairness of the the trial that began two years ago.

"That is all we ask -- that you judge this case fairly and justly in proportion to the gravity of the crimes," he said.

"If guilt cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it is your duty to acquit. But we've shown clear and convincing evidence and the gravity of the crimes proves guilt beyond reasonable doubt and justifies the sentence [Cambodian prosecutor] Chea Leang asked for last week," Koumjian said.

Among other things, he said the prosecution proved the two men were part of a joint criminal enterprise because they actively participated in policies that brought misery to the country, the Daily said.

"The forcible evacuation of Phnom Penh was an act of such ruthless inhumanity that really is without precedent," Koumjian said. "Can you imagine elderly persons such as Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea today being expelled from a city, put on a road to walk for weeks and provide for themselves?"

Assistant prosecutor Tarik Abdulhak said Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea "brought the country to its knees" and were "the masters of deception."

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 when the regime was toppled by Vietnam, aided by many Khmer Rouge defectors. Under Pol Pot, Cambodians were forced into rural agricultural camps and an unknown number of people -- estimates are as high as 3 million -- were executed or died of disease and starvation.

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