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Three top Khmer Rouge leaders go on trial in Cambodia

November 21, 2011 |  6:53 am

REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI — Three top Khmer Rouge leaders accused of helping mastermind Cambodia’s "killing fields" in the 1970s went on trial in Phnom Penh on Monday as hundreds of victims and curious onlookers arrived at the court from around the country to witness the proceedings.

The United Nations-backed trial is expected to take months. And, based the conduct of past tribunals in Cambodia, there could be a further extended period of time between the end of testimony and the court's reaching a verdict.

This reflects in part the highly political nature of these proceedings in a nation where feelings are still raw from the brutal period of history and where many of those who served in the Khmer Rouge remain prominent in society.

Adding some immediacy is the advanced age of many of the victims and accused, creating fears that those who committed atrocities will die before they face justice.

The three defendants — Nuon Chea, 85, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and second in command; Khieu Samphan, 80, an ex-head of state; and leng Sary, 86, the former foreign minister — sat beside their lawyers Monday in a courtroom especially built for the tribunal.

Among the charges they face are crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture. 


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— Mark Magnier

Photos: From left, former Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary are shown at their trial Monday in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. They are accused of helping mastermind the "killing fields" in the 1970s. Credit: ECCC / Reuters