LEAD: War crimes court blocks release of Khmer Rouge defendant
Dec 13, 2011, 12:31 GMT
Phnom Penh - The UN-backed court trying Khmer Rouge leaders for alleged genocide on Tuesday ordered key defendant Ieng Thirith, the former social affairs minister, to remain in pre-trial detention.
The ruling by the tribunal's Supreme Chamber reverses a November order by a lower chamber, which had said that Ieng Thirith should be released after experts had testified that she was suffering from dementia.
In their ruling the seven judges said the lower chamber had 'erred in law,' explaining that national and international standards did not warrant Ieng Thirith's release.
The judges said doctors must assess Ieng Thirith's condition in six months' time to determine whether medical treatment rendered her fit for trial.
Ieng Thirith is one of four defendants in the tribunal's second case.
The trial of the three other former leaders of Pol Pot's movement, on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, is underway in Phnom Penh. They have denied the charges.
The accused are Nuon Chea, known as Brother Number Two, and considered the movement's chief ideologue; former head of state Khieu Samphan; and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary. Aged between 80 and 86, they suffer from various health problems.
Ieng Thirith's mental health has been a matter of speculation since a court outburst in early 2009 when she cursed those accusing her of crimes, 'to the seventh circle of hell.'
In its first case the court last year sentenced the regime's security chief, Comrade Duch, to 30 years in prison after finding him guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The tribunal estimated that 1.7 million to 2.2 million people died in less than four years of rule by the Khmer Rouge, which emptied the cities as it advocated a rural, agrarian society. It said 800,000 of those deaths were violent with the rest attributed to overwork, starvation and illness.
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