Please release me: Duch…killed 15,000
AFP-27/11/2009–Phnom Penh – Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch stunned Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes court on Friday by asking judges to acquit and release him on the final day of arguments in his trial.
Prosecutors and victims said the demand raised questions about Duch’s previous admissions of responsibility and his pleas for forgiveness for overseeing the murders of 15,000 people at a notorious torture centre.
‘I would ask the chambers to release me. Thank you very much,’ Duch said at the end of his closing statement to the court, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
Following a query by shocked judges, Duch’s Cambodian lawyer Kar Savuth confirmed that Duch was asking to be acquitted on the grounds that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy.
International prosecutors earlier this week asked judges to impose a jail sentence of 40 years on Duch – a former maths teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav – for his role in the brutal 1975-1979 communist regime.
Under their leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly two million people as they abolished money, property and set up huge labour camps in their bid to turn Cambodia back to a rural ‘Year Zero’. Duch’s jail, known as Tuol Sleng or S-21, was at the heart of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus. Inmates were taken from there during Duch’s tenure for execution at a nearby orchard now known as the ‘Killing Fields’.