06/30/2008, 00.00
CAMBODIA
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Khmer Rouge leader denies accusations, calls to be set free because of "lack of proof"

Leng Sary, placed under pretrial detention by the regime, rejects the UN tribunal set up to judge five Khmer leaders for "genocide and crimes against humanity". Also behind bars, his wife Leng Thirith, former welfare minister for the regime of Pol Pot.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Leng Sary, the 82-year-old former foreign minister of the Pol Pot government, has asked the Cambodian tribunal to release him from pretrial detention and grant him full freedom.  The Khmer Rouge leader, accused of crimes against humanity, is one of the five representatives of the regime currently on trial.

During the 1970's, more than one-and-a-half million people were exterminated in the Maoist revolution through starvation, exhaustion, or execution.  The special tribunal, sponsored by the United Nations and called to judge war criminals, will also try Sary's wife, 76-year-old Leng Thirith, one of the leading figures of the regime and its welfare minister.

Leng Sary says it is "unacceptable" that he is accused of "supporting the criminal regime that committed violence, political persecution, mass murder, and forcible transfer of populations", and asks that "proof be supplied" for the charges against him.  In 1996, the Khmer leader had obtained a "royal pardon" from former monarch Norodom Sihanouk after disowning Pol Pot and his actions, and uniting himself with the national unity government.  But the act of clemency seems to have no value for the tribunal called to judge war criminals, having rejected similar "pardons" granted by the former king in the past.

After a period of crisis due to lack of funding, the special tribunal set up to try the Khmer leaders will hold its first hearings in September.

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