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Genocide tribunal holds first hearing

Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal opened its doors on Tuesday for the first public court appearance of a Khmer Rouge figure since the regime's brutal reign of terror in the 1970s.

world Updated: Nov 20, 2007 10:54 IST

Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal opened its doors on Tuesday for the first public court appearance of a Khmer Rouge figure since the regime's brutal reign of terror in the 1970s.

Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who headed the regime's notorious S-21 prison and torture center, entered the long-delayed tribunal for a pretrial hearing to appeal his detention ahead of trials scheduled to begin in 2008.

He was driven in a car with tinted windows from a detention center on the tribunal's compound to the nearby courtroom.

Hundreds of journalists, international observers and Cambodians crowded the compound to witness the event that comes almost three decades after the regime fell from power.

The 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime was blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

Many have said they feared the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders might die before being brought to justice. The movement's notorious leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

Duch's hearing was to be held in teh tribunal's pretrial chamber, with a live video feed broadcast to the main courtroom that seats 500 people. Ahead of the morning hearing, Duch was to be paraded before journalists for a photo session.

Tribunal spokesman Peter Foster hailed the hearing as "a milestone," saying he hoped it would ease the doubts of critics who feared the tribunal would never materialize.