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Ex-Khmer Rouge leader hires new counsel ahead of appeal

Former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] official Kaing Guek Eav [case materials; JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch," has hired Cambodian lawyer Kang Ritheary to replace his previous lawyer, according to documents [text, PDF] released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] Friday. Kaing fired [press release; JURIST report] his international co-counsel, Maitre Roux, in early July after sending a letter to ECCC President Nil Nonn, saying that he had "lost confidence" in the French lawyer. Ritheary joins Kar Savuth, Kaing's original co-counsel, also a Cambodian. Last month, the ECCC convicted Kaing [JURIST report] of crimes against humanity and of violating the 1949 Geneva Conventions, sentencing him to 35 years in prison. He plans to appeal [JURIST report].

Kaing unexpectedly asked to be released [JURIST report] at the close of his trial in November. His request was a complete departure from his previous conduct, as he had cooperated with the trial and repeatedly apologized to his victims and their families, mitigating conduct that earned him a reduced sentence from the 40 years prosecutors originally sought. His lawyers took different approaches in their closing remarks, with one stating that his client was not guilty and the other asking for clemency. In March 2009, Kaing accepted responsibility and apologized [JURIST report] for his conduct at the detention facility. He is the first of eight ex-Khmer Rouge officials expected to be tried before the ECCC. In April, the pre-trial chamber of the ECCC dismissed appeals by three other former Khmer Rouge officials [JURIST report] to block the extension of their provision detention. The three prisoners, Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan, were arrested in November 2007 and face charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, torture and religious persecution.

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