PHNOM PENH— The lawyer for the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer said his client should be held separately from fellow defendants at the international tribunal here after he apologized for atrocities committed by the Marxist faction during its rule in the 1970s.
Kaing Guek Eav—better known as Duch—commanded the 1975-79 regime's main S-21 prison, also known as Tuol Sleng, where as many as 16,000 men, women, and children are believed to have been brutalized before being sent to their deaths.
His French lawyer, Francois Roux, told the court on Wednesday that Duch should be freed from the genocide tribunal's special jail where he is now held with four other Khmer Rouge defendants whom he may implicate in crimes during his testimony, and sent to a "safe house."
Roux said Duch's rights have been violated by his 10-year detention without trial. Cambodian law prohibits "provisional detention" longer than three years, he said.
"Detention for 10 years is no longer provisional detention," Roux said.
Co-prosecutor Chea Leang argued against the request, saying Duch should remain where he is for his own safety.
The tribunal is considering the request.
Duch is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity as well as murder and torture and could face a maximum penalty of life in prison. Cambodia has no death penalty.
He is the only defendant among five to express remorse, but he has said he was afraid to challenge orders from higher up.
The tribunal marks the first bid to assign legal responsibility for the deaths of an estimated 2 million Cambodians from starvation, medical neglect, overwork, and execution under the 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge, whose top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.
On Monday, Duch appeared unflinching as the indictment was read out in court, including allegations that prisoners were beaten, electrocuted, smothered with plastic bags or had water poured into their noses, and that children were taken from parents and dropped to their deaths or that some prisoners were bled to death.
Original reporting by RFA's Khmer service. Additional reporting by the Associated Press. Service director: Sos Kem. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Edited in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.