PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Defence lawyers for two ex-Khmer Rouge leaders said Saturday they would boycott a new genocide trial until they appealed the pair’s earlier conviction, in a move which threatens to delay an already lengthy case.
In August Nuon Chea, 88, known as “Brother Number Two”, and ex-head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, were given life sentences for crimes against humanity after their first trial at Cambodia’s UN-backed court.
That ruling saw them become the first top figures to be jailed from a regime responsible for the deaths of up to two million Cambodians from 1975-1979.
Both men lodged appeals against the convictions last month but their lawyers said Saturday they needed time to file the full appeal documents.
“As long as we have not filed appeal brief, we won’t be able to attend” further hearings, said Anta Guisse, Khieu Samphan’s lawyer, after a press conference in Phnom Penh.
It is the first time defence lawyers have staged a boycott of the special court, set up in 2006 to try senior regime figures, in a move which could further prolong the trial.
The complex case against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan was split into a series of smaller trials in 2011 in a bid to get a faster verdict for reasons including their advanced age and the large number of accusations.
“Our boycott will not paralyse the court because we have a clear timeframe, it is until we finish our appeal, around two months,” claimed co-defence lawyer Kong Sam Onn, adding they also sought a decision on a motion to disqualify the court’s judges, who both ex-leaders accuse of bias.