PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The former Khmer Rouge head of state is in stable condition despite his recent hospitalization for a stroke and can remain in the custody of Cambodia’s genocide tribunal, a tribunal spokesman said Thursday.
Khieu Samphan, 77, is one of five former Khmer Rouge senior leaders in detention awaiting trial for their alleged involvement in the atrocities that occurred when their ultra-communist movement ruled Cambodia in 1975-79.
“Everyday they (doctors) continue to advise us that he’s fine, stable and able to continue staying in detention,” said Peter Foster, spokesman for the U.N.-assisted tribunal.
Some 1.7 million people died from starvation, disease and overwork or were executed during the Khmer Rouge’s radical rule that turned Cambodian into a vast slave labor camp.
The tribunal has charged Khieu Samphan with crimes against humanity and war crimes, and has held him since last November.
Many fear that he and other defendants, some in poor health, may not live long enough to stand trial.
Khieu Samphan was hospitalized for two weeks — from May 21 to June 5 — following a stroke.
His defense team has requested that he be temporarily released to receive care from his family at home, the investigating judges said in a report posted on the tribunal’s Web site.
The report quoted the defense as warning that “his conditions may progressively decline until the point of no return.”
But it also gave details from a recent assessment by doctors who said Khieu Samphan had a brain stroke but that “his health is satisfactory overall.”
“No risk factors are present,” it said. “Moreover, there is no heart or vascular condition that could trigger other cerebral vascular events in other areas.”
It said doctors have recommended that Khieu Samphan undergo medical checkups every two months.
Khieu Samphan’s defense team was not available to provide comment on the report.
In addition to a request for temporary release, the former leader has also appealed his detention. That motion remains in limbo following the recent resignation of Say Bory, his Cambodian lawyer.
Khieu Samphan’s friend and controversial French lawyer Jacques Verges, who is not currently in Cambodia, forced a postponement of his client’s appeal hearing in April when he refused to participate in the proceeding to protest the court’s failure to translate case documents into French — one of the tribunal’s three official languages along with Khmer and English.
Rupert Skilbeck, the head of the tribunal’s defense support section, said a new Cambodian lawyer is now being selected but he did not know when a new hearing would open for Khieu Samphan’s appeal against his detention.