PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Investigating judges at Cambodia’s UN-backed genocide court have refused to release former Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan nearly a year after he was arrested, said documents obtained Monday.
Former head of state Khieu Samphan, 77, stands charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role during the regime’s brutal 1975-1979 rule.
His lawyers last month asked investigating judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng not to renew his detention when it expires on November 19, on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to keep him in jail.
But investigating judges denied the request on October 28, saying confidential evidence gave “plausible reasons” to believe Khieu Samphan incited “murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution and other inhumane acts constituting crimes against humanity and intentional homicide.”
“The co-prosecutors believe that the release of the person charged could provoke demonstrations of indignation which could lead to violence,” the document also said.
The former leader is expected to appeal the decision, and has long maintained he had no actual power under the Khmer Rouge regime.
Soon after his arrest, Khieu Samphan appealed against his pre-trial detention but that was dropped last month.
Khieu Samphan is one of five senior Khmer Rouge leaders, mostly in their 70s and 80s, in detention awaiting trial for their alleged roles in the 1975-79 atrocities.
Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork or were executed under the Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society in its effort to forge a radical agrarian utopia.
Established in 2006 after nearly a decade of negotiations between Cambodia and the UN, the long-stalled tribunal seeks to prosecute crimes committed 30 years ago by senior Khmer Rouge leaders.