"I have been a lawyer for 50 years, it is the first time I have seen judges ask an accused to change his lawyer. This is a scandal!" French lawyer's outburst at Cambodia KR tribunal
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2008 14:13:05 -0700 (PDT)
French lawyer's outburst at Cambodia tribunal triggers delay
By KER MUNTHIT, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 5 minutes ago
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Cambodia's genocide tribunal abruptly adjourned
a pretrial hearing for a Khmer Rouge leader Wednesday after his French
attorney erupted at judges because thousands of pages of documents had
not been translated into French.
The judges later said they would issue a warning to lawyer Jacques
Verges for courtroom conduct causing the hearing's postponement.
Verges, 83, who is representing Khieu Samphan in his appeal against
pretrial detention, has earned notoriety with a client list that
includes Nazi Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, Venezuelan terrorist
Carlos the Jackal and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
The tribunal has charged Khieu Samphan with crimes against humanity
and war crimes committed when the communist Khmer Rouge held power in
1975-79. Some 1.7 million people died from starvation, disease,
overwork and execution as a result of the group's radical policies in
trying to build a classless society.
Khieu Samphan, 76, has repeatedly denied responsibility for any
Verges stormed out of Wednesday's closed-door hearing, telling
reporters that judges had asked Khieu Samphan to find a new lawyer.
"French is an official language of the tribunal. There is not one page
of the case file against Mr. Khieu Samphan translated into French,"
Verges told reporters, speaking in French. "I should be capable of
knowing what my client is blamed for."
After Verges refused to participate further, the judges suggested
Khieu Samphan might want to appoint a new lawyer to represent him —
and then adjourned the hearing.
"I have been a lawyer for 50 years, it is the first time I have seen
judges ask an accused to change his lawyer. This is a scandal!" he
One of the Cambodian prosecutors, Chea Leang, said the court is facing
difficulty translating thousands of pages of documents for all its
cases into the three official languages used by the tribunal — Khmer,
English and French.
But she said Verges' refusal to participate in the hearing due to the
absence of French-language documents was "unreasonable" because the
proceedings were not part of the actual trial.
Verges and Khieu Samphan have said they have known each other since
they both were active in left-wing student activities in Paris in the
Khieu Samphan has been detained by the tribunal since Nov. 19. He is
one of five former senior leaders in custody. The long-delayed
tribunal is expected to hold its first trial later this year. Many
fear the Khmer Rouge's aging leaders could die before being brought to
In its detention order, the tribunal's judges said Khieu Samphan
"aided and abetted" his regime's policies that were "characterized by
murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds
and other inhumane acts such as forcible transfers of the population,
enslavement and forced labor."
Khieu Samphan's lawyers say he held no real power as the Khmer Rouge's
head of state and is not guilty of the crimes he is charged with.
Khieu Samphan has blamed the late Khmer Rouge chief Pol Pot for the
group's policies, including decisions to purge many Khmer Rouge cadres
suspected of being disloyal or spies.
Expressionless before the court, Khieu Samphan stood when asked to
introduce himself Wednesday and said he lived a life of poverty after
the fall of the Khmer Rouge.
"I didn't have any job, and after leaving the jungle, I depended on my
wife who supported the whole family," he said.
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