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KRouge leader's appeal delayed by lawyer no-show

Cambodia's UN backed war crimes court delayed the Khmer Rouge head of state's appeal for release from jail after his famed lawyer Jacques Verges failed to appear at proceedings.

world Updated: Feb 27, 2009 11:49 IST

Cambodia's UN backed war crimes court on Friday delayed the Khmer Rouge head of state's appeal for release from jail after his famed lawyer Jacques Verges failed to appear at proceedings.

Khieu Samphan stood in court and said Verges had not travelled from Paris to attend his appeal ahead of the trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"In order to make sure that the pre trial chamber hears my comments fully according to the law, I would like to request that the pre trial chamber adjourn this meeting to a later date," Khieu Samphan said.

Frenchman Verges, who has acted for some of the world's most infamous figures including Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan terrorist "Carlos the Jackal," is known for attempting to sew confusion in the courtroom.

After a short recess, Judge Prak Kimsan said the appeal would be adjourned until April 3, noting that it was in Khieu Samphan's interest to deal with the matter as soon as possible.

During proceedings, co-defence lawyer Sa Sovan called the situation "unexpected" and said a relative of Verges had an emergency operation. But after the hearing he told reporters it was an important colleague in hospital.

"I actually think that Jacques Verges wanted to take part in proceedings," Sa Sovan said.

A fierce anti colonialist, Verges, who was born in Thailand, reportedly befriended Khieu Samphan and other future Khmer Rouge leaders while at university in Paris in the 1950s.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation and overwork as the communist regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling the population to vast collective farms in its bid for a communist utopia.

The long-awaited first Khmer Rouge trial started last week when the regime's notorious prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, went before the court.

The appeal for release from detention for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary was also delayed this week until early April after his lawyers said he was to ill to attend proceedings.