PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Prosecutors asked for sentences of life in prison for two Khmer Rouge officers, telling a tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a lesser punishment was inadequate.
In her request Monday, co-prosecutor Chea Leang said the court must hold co-defendants Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea accountable for plunging Cambodia "into darkness and terror," noting any other punishment would be unacceptable given the atrocities the two are accused of perpetrating against their own people, the Phnom Penh Post reported Tuesday.
"We do not ask for the killing of these accused," Leang said. "We do not ask you to condemn these men and their whole families out of their homes, to be forced to march for days at a time, to be left out in the wilderness to toil and starve in an organized system of enslavement, to be abused and beaten, to be lied to and deceived, to be bound and shot, to watch their children be torn apart and be smashed against trees and their loved ones perish without even the dignity of funeral rites, as the two accused and their co-perpetrators committed to the victims."
Leang said prosecutors seek "justice for the victims who perished, and justice for the victims who survived today who had to live through such a vicious and cruel regime under the leadership of these two leaders."
The request followed prosecutor William Smith fortifying the prosecution's accusations that the two were fully aware of and actively participated in the crimes occurring across Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge's bloody rule, the Post said.
"Nuon Chea was an extremist in the 1970s, and he is the same extremist today," Smith said.
He expressed disbelief at Samphan's claims he didn't know what was happening in Cambodia, especially since his predecessor had been purged.
"Are we to believe that Khieu Samphan was the only person in Democratic Kampuchea [Cambodia's name change under Khmer Rouge] who did not realize that people around him were constantly disappearing, never to be seen again?" he asked.
The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, when the regime was toppled by Vietnam and aided by Khmer Rouge defectors. Under Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, Cambodians were forced into rural agricultural camps where, by some estimates, as many as 3 million people were executed or died of disease and starvation.
Chen was known as "Brother No. 2," second in command to Pol Pot.
Samphan was the president of the state presidium of Democratic Kampuchea from 1976 to 1979, serving as Cambodia's head of state, and was considered one of the most powerful officials in the Khmer Rouge movement.