Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Khmer Rouge ‘Brother Number Two’ appeared for the first time before a United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia. Nuon Chea, the 81-year-old former deputy to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, is considered the chief ideologist of the bloody Communist regime that between 1975 and 1979 was responsible for the death of two million or 20 per cent of the Cambodian population.
The panel of UN-backed Cambodian and international judges that makes up the tribunal has charged him with crimes against humanity, but in his first public appearance he challenged his detention since September demanding to be released on bail.
A similar move by Kang Kek Iew, also known as Duch, who headed the group's notorious Security Prison 21 (Tuol Sleng) prison and interrogation centre, was rejected by the court.
A dispute over the 81-year-old's legal team and the accreditation of two Dutch defence lawyers meant the tribunal had to adjourn the hearing. The trial however should still take place this year
The tribunal was set up in 2006 after eight years of negotiations between Cambodian authorities and the United Nations, a process that raised doubts about Cambodia’s true resolve to see it work.
In the meantime, top Khmer Rouge leaders like Pol Pot and Ta Mok died in 1998 and 2006 respectively.
In addition to Nuon Chea and Kang Kek Iew, former President Khieu Samphan and former Foreign Minister Leng Sary are currently behind bars.