‘Release me’ - Duch begs war crimes tribunal
Request for clemency casts doubt over Khmer Rouge jailer’s sincerity
The former Khmer Rouge prison chief Comrade Duch has shocked the war crimes tribunal on the last day of his trial in Phnom Penh by asking to be released. Duch has admitted supervising the torture and killings of around 16,000 people. His request for clemency has angered the victims' families and cast doubt over the sincerity of his requests for forgiveness.
Duch, a 66-year-old former maths teacher, asked to be acquitted on the grounds that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy. As psychoanalyst Coline Covington wrote for The First Post earlier this week, Duch was a devoted member of the Khmer Rouge but claimed that he was simply following orders from higher-ups in the regime and that it would have been fatal to disobey.
Duch, who has been on trial since February, said he had co-operated fully with the tribunal and had been detained since 1999. "I would ask the chamber to release me. Thank you very much," he said at the end of his closing statement to the court.
The judges at the UN-backed war crimes tribunal ignored Duch's request and closed proceedings. They are expected to release their verdict early next year.
Duch is the first of five leading Khmer Rouge figures to go before the UN-backed tribunal and faces a maximum life sentence. The tribunal does not have the power to impose the death penalty. The joint trial of four other Khmer Rouge leaders - more senior than Duch - is expected to start in 2011. ·
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