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Ex-Khmer Rouge Leader Gets Life in Prison

Cambodia: Appeals court reverses acquittal in the murders of three Western backpackers.

September 06, 2002|From Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A court today sentenced a former senior Khmer Rouge leader, Col. Chhouk Rin, to life in prison for the 1994 murders of three Western backpackers, reversing an earlier acquittal.

Chhouk Rin was acquitted two years ago by a municipal court of charges that he and other Khmer Rouge members kidnapped and murdered Briton Mark Slater, Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet and Australian David Wilson after ambushing the train on which the three were traveling.

"Since Chhouk Rin was the commander who sent his troops to participate in the train attack," he was responsible for the murders, said Samreth Sophal, the Appeals Court chief judge.

He said that the municipal court's decision "has to be rejected" and that there is "enough guilt to convict him of murder."

The appeal was filed by Jean-Claude Braquet, father of the French victim.

Chhouk Rin and his lawyers did not attend the hearing, but chief defense lawyer Put Theavy said he will appeal to the Supreme Court, the last legal avenue.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld a life sentence handed down to a second Khmer Rouge leader, Nuon Paet, in 1999 for his role in the killings.

The court said the crimes committed under his command were "vicious and barbaric."

A third former Khmer Rouge leader, Sam Bith, who was implicated by Nuon Paet, was arrested in May and is detained pending trial. Authorities initially balked at arresting Sam Bith because he had defected to the government's side. Human rights advocates have viewed these trials as a barometer of the government's commitment to pursuing justice for greater crimes that the Khmer Rouge committed under its deadly 1975-79 rule. Starvation, disease, overwork and executions claimed 1.7 million lives.

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