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Landmark Khmer Rouge trial begins

Reuters / Mark Peters

Four senior Khmer Rouge leaders went on trial on Monday at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed under the communist regime during the 1970s.


The four are charged in connection with the deaths of up to two million people, from starvation, overwork, torture or execution, during the rule of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 til 1979.

All four defendants deny the accusations, including the genocide charges which relate specifically to the murders of Vietnamese people and ethnic Cham muslims.

Nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population died during the period and Monday's case is considered one of the most complex since the post World War II Nazi trials.

Nuon Chea, the right hand man of late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, left the hearing after only half an hour in protest at the handling of the investigaion and legal proceedings.

Former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, and her husband, ex-foreign miniser Ieng Sary were later excused on health grounds, so that only Khieu Samphan, Cambodia's one-time head of state, remained in the dock for the duration of the hearing.

All of the accused are in their late 70s or 80s and there is concern that they could die before a verdict is pronounced.





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