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Khmer Rouge prison chief Comrade Duch dies

Khmer Rouge prison chief Comrade Duch dies
Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Feb. 3, 2012, for committing crimes against humanity. Photo courtesy of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia/Website

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Comrade Duch, the Khmer Rouge prison chief found guilty of committing war crimes in 2010, has died in prison at the age of 77, officials said.

The jailer who oversaw Cambodia's infamous Tuol Sleng prison died Wednesday at 12:52 a.m. at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, Neth Pheaktra, a spokesperson for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, said on Twitter.

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The cause of death was not released.

Duch, whose real name was Kaing Guek Eav, was sentenced to life in prison by a joint Cambodian-U.N. genocide tribunal in 2012.

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He had been found guilty at a 2010 trial of committing crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, torture and homicide, becoming the first senior Khmer Rouge leader to be held accountable for the atrocities committed by the tyrannical communist regime.

As chief of the Tuol Sleng prison, codenamed S-21, Duch oversaw a "factory of death" where up to 15,000 inmates are believed to have been tortured and then executed in Cambodia's Killing Fields.

His victims were among the estimated 1.7 million people who died under the reign of the Khmer Rouge and its leader Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979.

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In its guilty ruling, the tribunal said the "particularly shocking and heinous character" of Comrade Duch's crimes over an extended period of time "undoubtedly places this case among the gravest before international criminal tribunals."

During his trial, the former schoolteacher denied being a leader in the Khmer Rouge and argued he, too, would have been killed if he disobeyed orders. Duch was initially sentenced to 35 years in prison but his term was increased to life upon appeal.

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