PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge tribunal restarted genocide hearings this week against the former regime’s most senior surviving leaders, with the first witness being called to testify against the ailing octogenarians.
Proceedings had been postponed since November after defense lawyers threatened a boycott because they said they were still working to appeal an earlier verdict.
Khieu Samphan, the 1970s regime’s head of state, and Nuon Chea, a right-hand man to communist group’s late leader, Pol Pot, were sentenced to life in prison in August after being found guilty of crimes against humanity.
They are now on trial on separate charges of genocide against minorities, and rape and forces marriages – the first time such accusations have been put to trial.
Some 1.7 million people are estimated to have died from starvation, disease and execution due to the group’s extremist policies, and there is growing concern that the two men could die before the genocide trial can be completed.
Thursday’s hearing ended early because Khieu Samphan, 83, was dizzy and suffering from high blood pressure. Proceedings were expected to continue Friday but court officials said they would be postponed until Jan 15 because of Khieu Samphan’s health.