Friday, October 3, 2008

Khmer Rouge On Trial

Ex-Khmer Rouge on trial for killing British deminer

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Five former Khmer Rouge soldiers went on trial Friday in the Cambodian capital, charged in the 1996 murders of a British deminer and his Cambodian translator.

Briton Christopher Howes and his interpreter, Houn Hourth, were abducted along with a group of Cambodian co-workers in March 1996 by Khmer Rouge guerrillas while clearing mines near the Angkor Wat temple complex in northwestern Cambodia.

Howes, 37, a former soldier, was said to have behaved heroically during the ordeal, persuading the kidnappers to free all his colleagues except himself and Hourth.

Their fate remained a mystery for more than two years, but Scotland Yard confirmed in 1998 that they had been killed in the remote, northern former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng.

Among the defendants at Friday's trial was Khem Ngun, a former rebel commander who defected to the government soon after the killings. He is accused of ordering the killings.

The abduction was just one of a spate of kidnappings by the Khmer Rouge during the mid-1990s when the embattled group was attempting to shore up the movement financially with hijackings of cars and trains, abductions of foreigners and other brutal crimes.

The suspects have been charged with premeditated murder and illegal confinement and face life in prison.

The Cambodian government was accused at the time of being slow to make arrests in the killings because negotiations for Khmer Rouge leaders to defect were at a crucial stage. In November, police arrested two accused ringleaders, grabbing three more men in May.

Cambodian trials usually take one day, but judges often reserve verdicts for weeks.

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