Defendant at Cambodian genocide trial hospitalized

  • Associated Press
  • January 16, 2013 - 4:13 AM

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - The former head of state of Cambodia's notorious Khmer Rouge regime, now facing trial for crimes against humanity, was hospitalized Wednesday, said a spokesman for the U.N.-backed tribunal trying him and two colleagues for crimes against humanity and other offenses. He is the second aging defendant in the case to be hospitalized this week.

Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said 81-year-old Khieu Samphan was sent to a hospital suffering fatigue and shortness of breath. Co-defendant Nuon Chea, chief ideologist for the Khmer Rouge, was hospitalized Sunday and is being treated for acute bronchitis.

Nuon Chea's absence caused the tribunal on Tuesday to announce the temporary suspension of their joint trial, which began in June 2011.

The U.N.-assisted tribunal is trying the pair and former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary for crimes against humanity and other offenses. The communist group's fanatical efforts to realize a utopian society led to the deaths of some 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution from 1975 to 1979.

The age and infirm health of the defendants has raised concerns they may not live long enough to hear a verdict on the changes against them. In the sole previous trial, the head of a torture center operated by the regime was found guilty of crimes against humanity and other charges and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

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