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June 27, 2017

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Khmer Rouge tribunal readies way for genocide case

Khieu Samphan, the regime's head of state, and Nuon Chea, right-hand man to the group's late leader, Pol Pot, are already set to face sentencing next week after being tried for crimes against humanity related mostly to the communist group's forced movement of millions to the countryside when it took power in 1975.

The tribunal's chief judge, Nil Nonn, opened the hearings by reading the charges and crime sites set to be heard in the newest trial segment.

Tribunal officials say their second trial, with witnesses and the presentation of evidence, is likely to begin in the last quarter of this year. It will cover additional crimes against humanity, and add charges of genocide for the killings of members of Cambodia's Vietnamese and Cham ethnic minorities.

The crimes of rape and forced marriages will also be considered for the first time by the tribunal.

"The purpose of today's hearing is to clarify issues ahead of the case," Nonn said.

Because he is unable to sit for long periods of time, Nuon Chea remained in his holding cell. Khieu Samphan appeared in good health, diligently taking notes as he sat in court.

Anta Guisse, a defense lawyer for Khieu Samphan, said she was concerned about confusion over what evidence or findings from the first part of the trial would be carried over into the next.

This week's initial hearing will cover technical matters such as witness lists and procedural objections by the contending parties.

Because of the advanced age and poor health of the defendants, the case against them was divided into separate smaller trials. But some critics feel that convictions on lesser charges may be an affront to history.

The first trial, which began in November 2011 and lasted two years, focused solely on forced evacuations and a mass execution of soldiers who had fought against the Khmer Rouge during a bitter 1970-75 civil war.

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