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Cambodia PM testimony sought at Khmer Rouge trial

Attorneys have asked the UN-backed Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal for permission to interview Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and former King Norodom Sihanouk, according to confidential documents obtained.

world Updated: Mar 02, 2009 15:12 IST

Attorneys have asked the UN-backed Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal for permission to interview Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and former King Norodom Sihanouk, according to confidential documents obtained on Monday.

The request was made by the defense team for Nuon Chea, the main ideologist of the regime whose 1975-1979 rule left an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians dead.

The long-delayed tribunal begins its first trial later this month, while the trial for Nuon Chea _ charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity and facing life imprisonment _ is expected to begin later this year.

The confidential court documents obtained by The Associated Press also request testimony from current senate president Chean Sim and assembly president Heng Samrin. Both men, along with Hun Sen, were members of the Khmer Rouge regime but defected to Vietnam before it was ousted.

"They are likely in possession of much relevant information to the pending judicial investigation," one of the documents said. All have denied any role in atrocities.

Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than two decades, was a former Khmer Rouge soldier who fled to Vietnam in 1977 and became prime minister of a Vietnamese-installed communist government after the regime's fall.

Son Arun, Nuon Chea's Cambodian attorney, confirmed the authenticity of the documents but said he had not personally filed the request, an apparent effort to distance himself from the move to put Cambodia's strongman on the stand.

The defense team said that the 86-year-old former King Sihanouk, who briefly served as a symbolic head of state after the Khmer Rouge took power, had "rare access to the Khmer Rouge leadership, their strategies and policies" and was "privy to a range of sensitive information."

The tribunal's first trial, scheduled to begin March 30, is for 65-year-old Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who headed the Khmer Rouge's largest torture center. Later trials will be held for Khieu Samphan, the group's former head of state; Ieng Sary, its foreign minister; and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs.