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Khmer Rouge leader held

Nuon Chea was the movement's chief political ideologue.

September 19, 2007|From the Associated Press

PAILIN, CAMBODIA — Police arrested the top surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea, today because of his role in the notorious Cambodian regime that caused the deaths of 1.7 million people in the 1970s.

Officers served Nuon Chea with a warrant for his arrest on charges of crimes against humanity at his home in Pailin, in northwestern Cambodia near the Thai border, police Capt. Sem Sophal said.

Nuon Chea helped the Khmer Rouge leader, the late Pol Pot, seize control of Cambodia's communist movement in the 1950s and '60s and became the movement's chief political ideologue.

Prosecutors for the United Nations-backed genocide tribunal investigating crimes by the Khmer Rouge have not publicly named Nuon Chea as a suspect. But he is believed to be one of five senior Khmer Rouge figures they have recommended for trial.

If he appears before the panel, he would be the second, and highest-ranking, Khmer Rouge leader to do so.

After numerous delays, co-investigating Judge You Bun Leng and his U.N.-appointed counterpart, Marcel Lemonde, in July began investigations of former Khmer Rouge leaders accused of crimes against humanity.

Nuon Chea, who is about 80, said in July that he was ready to stand trial. "I will go to the court and don't care if people believe me or not," he said.

Reach Sambath, a tribunal spokesman, declined to comment today.

Kang Kek Ieu, referred to as Kaing Geuk Eav in tribunal filings and known as Duch, was charged in July with crimes against humanity. He had run the Khmer Rouge S-21 prison.

Pol Pot died in 1998 and his ex-military chief, Ta Mok, died in 2006 in government custody.

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